weekend | 27 april 2013

HEALTHCARE

HEALTH CHAOS AHEAD

David Brooks | The New York Times

I’ve been talking with a bipartisan bunch of health care experts, trying to get a sense of exactly how bad things are. In my conversations with this extremely well-informed group of providers, academics and former government officials, I’d say there is a minority, including some supporters of the law, who think the whole situation is a complete disaster. They predict Obamacare will collapse and do serious damage to the underlying health system.

But the clear majority, including some of the law’s opponents, believe that we’re probably in for a few years of shambolic messiness, during which time everybody will scramble and adjust, and eventually we will settle down to a new normal.

. . . The experts talk about the problems that lie ahead in cascades. First, there is what you might call the structural cascade. Everything is turning out to be more complicated than originally envisioned. The Supreme Court decision made the Medicaid piece more complicated. The decision by many states not to set up exchanges made the exchange piece more complicated. The lines of accountability between, for example, state and federally run exchanges have grown byzantine and unclear.

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SECURITY

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WILL BOSTON CHANGE COUNTER-TERRORISM?

David Remnick and Jane Mayer discuss the marathon bombing.

MIND BENDING PARASITE PERMANENTLY QUELLS CAT FEAR IN MICE

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SCIENCE

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Ed Yong | Phenomena | National Geographic

A mouse sniffs the air, catches the whiff of cat urine, and runs towards the source of the smell… and straight into the jaws of a cat. This bizarre suicidal streak is the work of a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which has commandeered the mouse’s brain and turned it into a Trojan rodent—a vehicle for sneaking T.gondii into a cat.

T.gondii (or Toxo for short) infects a wide variety of mammals, but it only completes its life cycle in the guts of a cat. To get there, Toxo has ways of subverting the behaviour of dead-end hosts like mice. Its machinations are subtle, so subtle that it’s normally hard to tell an infected mouse from an uninfected one. But the difference becomes obvious when there’s cat pee in the air. Normal mice, even lab-born ones that have never met a cat, have an innate fear of cat smells. Those infected with Toxo do not. They (and their parasites) are more likely to end up in a cat.

ON COPYCAT WHALES, CONFORMIST MONKEYS AND ANIMAL CULTURES

Ed Yong | Phenomena | National Geographic

In 1980, a humpback whale in the Gulf of Maine started doing something different. All its neighbours would catch small fish by swimming in circles below them, blowing curtains of bubbles, and then lunging straight up at the corralled shoal. Then one individual, out of the blue, started smacking the water surface with its tail before diving down and blowing its bubbles.

This behaviour is called lobtail feeding, and no one knows why it works. Maybe it disturbs the water above the bubble curtains and discourages fish from jumping to safety. Whatever the benefit, it went viral. Just eight years after the first innovative whale started doing it, 20 percent of the Maine humpbacks had picked up the technique. Now, it’s more like 40 percent. What began as one whale slapping the water is now a tradition.

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DÉSOLÉ MADMOISELLE

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DISNEY REJECTION LETTER TO A WOMAN

Retronaut
Disney-Rejection-Letter-1-620x802
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BOOKS

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REVOLTINGLY EDIBLE

On Hilary Mantel
Namara Smith | n+1 | Amazon: Hilary Mantel

bringupthebodiesNear the beginning of Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), the novel’s main character, a young English woman who has just arrived in Saudi Arabia, pauses as she joins her husband in the living room of their company-furnished apartment for the first time. She can’t decide where to sit; although the room is filled with chairs, none are placed so that two people can sit facing each other and talk. As she hesitates, wondering if dragging a seat into a better angle would seem “unreasonably portentous,” this detail expands threateningly, and behind the arrangement of furniture appears the outline of a broader social arrangement prohibiting equal conversation between spouses.

Mantel’s novels take shape through the gradual accumulation of these moments of dissonance, moving outward from uncomfortable and unpleasant details to suggest larger patterns of menace and disorder.
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ANIMATED SHORT

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JAZZ THAT NOBODY ASKED FOR

Benny Box | Vimeo | via Dinosaurs, Science & Design

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RETIREMENT

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MEET MR. MONEY MUSTACHE, THE MAN WHO RETIRED AT 30

Kelly Johnson | The Washington Post

So you retired at 30. How did that happen?
I was probably born with a desire for efficiency — the desire to get the most fun out of any possible situation, with no resources being wasted. This applied to money too, and by age 10, I was ironing my 20 dollar bills and keeping them in a photo album, just because they seemed like such powerful and intriguing little rectangles.

But I didn’t start saving and investing particularly early, I just maintained this desire not to waste anything. So I got through my engineering degree debt-free — by working a lot and not owning a car — and worked pretty hard early on to move up a bit in the career, relocating from Canada to the United States, attracted by the higher salaries and lower cost of living.

Then my future wife and I moved in together and DIY-renovated a junky house into a nice one, kept old cars while our friends drove fancy ones, biked to work instead of driving, cooked at home and went out to restaurants less, and it all just added up to saving more than half of what we earned. We invested this surplus as we went, never inflating our already-luxurious lives, and eventually the passive income from stock dividends and a rental house was more than enough to pay for our needs (about $25,000 per year for our family of three, with a paid-off house and no other debt).

You describe the typical middle-class life as an “exploding volcano of wastefulness.” Seems like lots of personal finance folks obsess about lattes. Are you just talking about the lattes here?
The latte is just the foamy figurehead of an entire spectrum of sloppy “I deserve it” luxury spending that consumes most of our gross domestic product these days. Among my favorite targets: commuting to an office job in an F-150 pickup truck, anything involving a drive-through, paying $100 per month for the privilege of wasting four hours a night watching cable TV and the whole yoga industry. There are better, and free, ways to meet these needs, but everyone always chooses the expensive ones and then complains that life is hard these days.

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FILM

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LA NUIT DE VARENNES

Ettore Scola | Hulu


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MUSIC

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MIGUEL: NPR TINY DESK CONCERT


miguel

BACKYARD BRUNCH SESSIONS: LUCIUS – WILDEWOMAN


lucius

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