Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Frozen Alive

When your Jeep spins lazily off the mountain road and slams backward into a snowbank, you don’t worry immediately about the cold. Your first thought is that you’ve just dented your bumper. Your second is that you’ve failed to bring a shovel. Your third is that you’ll be late for dinner. Friends are expecting you at their cabin around eight for a moonlight ski, a late dinner, a sauna. Nothing can keep you from that.

Driving out of town, defroster roaring, you barely noted the bank thermometer on the town square: minus 27 degrees at 6:36. The radio weather report warned of a deep mass of arctic air settling over the region. The man who took your money at the Conoco station shook his head at the register and said he wouldn’t be going anywhere tonight if he were you. You smiled. A little chill never hurt anybody with enough fleece and a good four-wheel-drive.

But now you’re stuck. Jamming the gearshift into low, you try to muscle out of the drift. The tires whine on ice-slicked snow as headlights dance on the curtain of frosted firs across the road. Shoving the lever back into park, you shoulder open the door and step from your heated capsule. Cold slaps your naked face, squeezes tears from your eyes.

You check your watch: 7:18. You consult your map: A thin, switchbacking line snakes up the mountain to the penciled square that marks the cabin.

Breath rolls from you in short frosted puffs. The Jeep lies cocked sideways in the snowbank like an empty turtle shell. You think of firelight and saunas and warm food and wine. You look again at the map. It’s maybe five or six miles more to that penciled square. You run that far every day before breakfast. You’ll just put on your skis. No problem.

There is no precise core temperature at which the human body perishes from cold. At Dachau’s cold-water immersion baths, Nazi doctors calculated death to arrive at around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The lowest recorded core temperature in a surviving adult is 60.8 degrees. For a child it’s lower: In 1994, a two-year-old girl in Saskatchewan wandered out of her house into a minus-40 night. She was found near her doorstep the next morning, limbs frozen solid, her core temperature 57 degrees. She lived.

Others are less fortunate, even in much milder conditions. One of Europe’s worst weather disasters occurred during a 1964 competitive walk on a windy, rainy English moor; three of the racers died from hypothermia, though temperatures never fell below freezing and ranged as high as 45.

But for all scientists and statisticians now know of freezing and its physiology, no one can yet predict exactly how quickly and in whom hypothermia will strike—and whether it will kill when it does. The cold remains a mystery, more prone to fell men than women, more lethal to the thin and well muscled than to those with avoirdupois, and least forgiving to the arrogant and the unaware.

The process begins even before you leave the car, when you remove your gloves to squeeze a loose bail back into one of your ski bindings. The freezing metal bites your flesh. Your skin temperature drops.

Within a few seconds, the palms of your hands are a chilly, painful 60 degrees. Instinctively, the web of surface capillaries on your hands constrict, sending blood coursing away from your skin and deeper into your torso. Your body is allowing your fingers to chill in order to keep its vital organs warm.

You replace your gloves, noticing only that your fingers have numbed slightly. Then you kick boots into bindings and start up the road.

Were you a Norwegian fisherman or Inuit hunter, both of whom frequently work gloveless in the cold, your chilled hands would open their surface capillaries periodically to allow surges of warm blood to pass into them and maintain their flexibility. This phenomenon, known as the hunter’s response, can elevate a 35-degree skin temperature to 50 degrees within seven or eight minutes.

Other human adaptations to the cold are more mysterious. Tibetan Buddhist monks can raise the skin temperature of their hands and feet by 15 degrees through meditation. Australian aborigines, who once slept on the ground, unclothed, on near-freezing nights, would slip into a light hypothermic state, suppressing shivering until the rising sun rewarmed them.

You have no such defenses, having spent your days at a keyboard in a climate-controlled office. Only after about ten minutes of hard climbing, as your body temperature rises, does blood start seeping back into your fingers. Sweat trickles down your sternum and spine.

By now you’ve left the road and decided to shortcut up the forested mountainside to the road’s next switchback. Treading slowly through deep, soft snow as the full moon hefts over a spiny ridgetop, throwing silvery bands of moonlight and shadow, you think your friends were right: It’s a beautiful night for skiing—though you admit, feeling the minus-30 air bite at your face, it’s also cold.

After an hour, there’s still no sign of the switchback, and you’ve begun to worry. You pause to check the map. At this moment, your core temperature reaches its high: 100.8. Climbing in deep snow, you’ve generated nearly ten times as much body heat as you do when you are resting.

As you step around to orient map to forest, you hear a metallic pop. You look down. The loose bail has disappeared from your binding. You lift your foot and your ski falls from your boot.

You twist on your flashlight, and its cold-weakened batteries throw a yellowish circle in the snow. It’s right around here somewhere, you think, as you sift the snow through gloved fingers. Focused so intently on finding the bail, you hardly notice the frigid air pressing against your tired body and sweat-soaked clothes.

The exertion that warmed you on the way uphill now works against you: Your exercise-dilated capillaries carry the excess heat of your core to your skin, and your wet clothing dispels it rapidly into the night. The lack of insulating fat over your muscles allows the cold to creep that much closer to your warm blood.

Your temperature begins to plummet. Within 17 minutes it reaches the normal 98.6. Then it slips below.

At 97 degrees, hunched over in your slow search, the muscles along your neck and shoulders tighten in what’s known as pre-shivering muscle tone. Sensors have signaled the temperature control center in your hypothalamus, which in turn has ordered the constriction of the entire web of surface capillaries. Your hands and feet begin to ache with cold. Ignoring the pain, you dig carefully through the snow; another ten minutes pass. Without the bail you know you’re in deep trouble.

Finally, nearly 45 minutes later, you find the bail. You even manage to pop it back into its socket and clamp your boot into the binding. But the clammy chill that started around your skin has now wrapped deep into your body’s core.

At 95, you’ve entered the zone of mild hypothermia. You’re now trembling violently as your body attains its maximum shivering response, an involuntary condition in which your muscles contract rapidly to generate additional body heat.

It was a mistake, you realize, to come out on a night this cold. You should turn back. Fishing into the front pocket of your shell parka, you fumble out the map. You consulted it to get here; it should be able to guide you back to the warm car. It doesn’t occur to you in your increasingly clouded and panicky mental state that you could simply follow your tracks down the way you came.

And after this long stop, the skiing itself has become more difficult. By the time you push off downhill, your muscles have cooled and tightened so dramatically that they no longer contract easily, and once contracted, they won’t relax. You’re locked into an ungainly, spread-armed, weak-kneed snowplow.

Still, you manage to maneuver between stands of fir, swishing down through silvery light and pools of shadow. You’re too cold to think of the beautiful night or of the friends you had meant to see. You think only of the warm Jeep that waits for you somewhere at the bottom of the hill. Its gleaming shell is centered in your mind’s eye as you come over the crest of a small knoll. You hear the sudden whistle of wind in your ears as you gain speed. Then, before your mind can quite process what the sight means, you notice a lump in the snow ahead.

Recognizing, slowly, the danger that you are in, you try to jam your skis to a stop. But in your panic, your balance and judgment are poor. Moments later, your ski tips plow into the buried log and you sail headfirst through the air and bellyflop into the snow.

You lie still. There’s a dead silence in the forest, broken by the pumping of blood in your ears. Your ankle is throbbing with pain and you’ve hit your head. You’ve also lost your hat and a glove. Scratchy snow is packed down your shirt. Meltwater trickles down your neck and spine, joined soon by a thin line of blood from a small cut on your head.

This situation, you realize with an immediate sense of panic, is serious. Scrambling to rise, you collapse in pain, your ankle crumpling beneath you.

As you sink back into the snow, shaken, your heat begins to drain away at an alarming rate, your head alone accounting for 50 percent of the loss. The pain of the cold soon pierces your ears so sharply that you root about in the snow until you find your hat and mash it back onto your head.

But even that little activity has been exhausting. You know you should find your glove as well, and yet you’re becoming too weary to feel any urgency. You decide to have a short rest before going on.

An hour passes. at one point, a stray thought says you should start being scared, but fear is a concept that floats somewhere beyond your immediate reach, like that numb hand lying naked in the snow. You’ve slid into the temperature range at which cold renders the enzymes in your brain less efficient. With every one-degree drop in body temperature below 95, your cerebral metabolic rate falls off by 3 to 5 percent. When your core temperature reaches 93, amnesia nibbles at your consciousness. You check your watch: 12:58. Maybe someone will come looking for you soon. Moments later, you check again. You can’t keep the numbers in your head. You’ll remember little of what happens next.

Your head drops back. The snow crunches softly in your ear. In the minus-35-degree air, your core temperature falls about one degree every 30 to 40 minutes, your body heat leaching out into the soft, enveloping snow. Apathy at 91 degrees. Stupor at 90.

You’ve now crossed the boundary into profound hypothermia. By the time your core temperature has fallen to 88 degrees, your body has abandoned the urge to warm itself by shivering. Your blood is thickening like crankcase oil in a cold engine. Your oxygen consumption, a measure of your metabolic rate, has fallen by more than a quarter. Your kidneys, however, work overtime to process the fluid overload that occurred when the blood vessels in your extremities constricted and squeezed fluids toward your center. You feel a powerful urge to urinate, the only thing you feel at all.

By 87 degrees you’ve lost the ability to recognize a familiar face, should one suddenly appear from the woods.

At 86 degrees, your heart, its electrical impulses hampered by chilled nerve tissues, becomes arrhythmic. It now pumps less than two-thirds the normal amount of blood. The lack of oxygen and the slowing metabolism of your brain, meanwhile, begin to trigger visual and auditory hallucinations.

You hear jingle bells. Lifting your face from your snow pillow, you realize with a surge of gladness that they’re not sleigh bells; they’re welcoming bells hanging from the door of your friends’ cabin. You knew it had to be close by. The jingling is the sound of the cabin door opening, just through the fir trees.

Attempting to stand, you collapse in a tangle of skis and poles. That’s OK. You can crawl. It’s so close.

Hours later, or maybe it’s minutes, you realize the cabin still sits beyond the grove of trees. You’ve crawled only a few feet. The light on your wristwatch pulses in the darkness: 5:20. Exhausted, you decide to rest your head for a moment.

When you lift it again, you’re inside, lying on the floor before the woodstove. The fire throws off a red glow. First it’s warm; then it’s hot; then it’s searing your flesh. Your clothing has caught fire.

At 85 degrees, those freezing to death, in a strange, anguished paroxysm, often rip off their clothes. This phenomenon, known as paradoxical undressing, is common enough that urban hypothermia victims are sometimes initially diagnosed as victims of sexual assault. Though researchers are uncertain of the cause, the most logical explanation is that shortly before loss of consciousness, the constricted blood vessels near the body’s surface suddenly dilate and produce a sensation of extreme heat against the skin.

All you know is that you’re burning. You claw off your shell and pile sweater and fling them away.

But then, in a final moment of clarity, you realize there’s no stove, no cabin, no friends. You’re lying alone in the bitter cold, naked from the waist up. You grasp your terrible misunderstanding, a whole series of misunderstandings, like a dream ratcheting into wrongness. You’ve shed your clothes, your car, your oil-heated house in town. Without this ingenious technology you’re simply a delicate, tropical organism whose range is restricted to a narrow sunlit band that girds the earth at the equator.

And you’ve now ventured way beyond it.

There’s an adage about hypothermia: “You aren’t dead until you’re warm and dead.”

by Peter Stark, Oustside |  Read more: 
Image: uncredited

The Mining 'Mafias' Killing Each Other to Build Cities

In the dark of the night of 20 December, two Kenyan truck drivers met a blazing death. The men were loading up their vehicles at around 2am on the bank of the Muooni river, about 60 miles south-east of Nairobi, when a mob of local youths descended on them. The attackers torched the lorries, burning the drivers “beyond recognition”, police told a local newspaper. A third truck driver was shot with arrows.

The grisly episode was the most dramatic outbreak in a wave of recent violence in Makueni County, an impoverished rural area that is home to just under 1 million people. In the last two years, at least nine people have been killed and dozens more injured, including police officers and government officials. The carnage has been sparked by an unlikely substance that is fast becoming one of the 21st century’s most important commodities: sand.

Though most people never give it a second thought, sand is a crucial ingredient in the construction of roads and buildings – the skeletons of modern cities. Concrete and asphalt are largely just sand and gravel glued together with cement.

In Kenya, as in most of the developing world, cities are growing at a frenzied pace. Nairobi’s population has increased tenfold since the country became independent in 1963, and is now fast approaching 4 million. The number of urban dwellers in the world has shot from fewer than 1 billion in 1950 to almost 4 billion today, and the UN predicts another 2.5 billion will join them in the next three decades. That’s the equivalent of adding eight New York Cities every year.

Creating buildings to house all the people and the roads to knit them together requires prodigious quantities of sand. Worldwide, more than 48bn tonnes of “aggregate” – the industry term for sand and gravel, which tend to be found together – are used for construction every year. That number is double what is was in 2004. It’s an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Pulling all of that sand out of the ground, however, takes a severe toll on the environment. Across the world, riverbeds, beaches and floodplains are being stripped bare by sand miners. In response, authorities are trying to regulate the manner and location of extraction. In turn, it has spawned a global boom in illegal sand mining. “As the price of sand goes up, the ‘mafias’ get more involved,” says Pascal Peduzzi, a researcher with the United Nations environment programme and author of a study on sand mining.

by Vince Beiser, The Guardian | Read more:
Image: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

[ed. See also: Sand mining: the global environmental crisis you’ve probably never heard of]

Jethro Tull

[ed. Sound familiar? You decide: Did Jethro Tull Influence The Eagles' 'Hotel California'? (turn up the sound a bit)].

Monday, February 27, 2017

Why Eidos Is Ditching Italian Suits, Hitting the Skatepark, and Saving American Menswear

Eidos creative director Antonio Ciongoli is the most candid designer I’ve ever met. My first gig in the industry was as an intern for Eidos, and having assumed that fashion types tend towards innuendo, Antonio always surprised with his no-BS talk about what it was like to design in such a strange time for menswear. Guys were ditching suits en-masse (bad news for a brand started by Neapolitan tailoring house Isaia at the height of the suit-and-tie #menswear movement), fast fashion was killing department store sales, and social media was confusing the hell out of everybody. But by pivoting from tailoring to slouchy-sprezzy sportswear, Antonio has put Eidos on the (very) short list of exciting, successful New York-based menswear brands just a few years later. (This even though Antonio himself has all but abandoned the city for his home in New Jersey, telling me that “Every neighborhood has become the same.”) Given that the Fall-Winter 2017 collection, previewed exclusively here, is Antonio’s largest and most ambitious ever, I figured it was time to have another one of our frank discussions about the line, the business, and the industry.

The new collection is called “New York Blues.” Eidos has finally left Italy, huh? 

This time around I picked an inspiration that felt really right for where I want our brand to go. It’s just about good clothes, kind of funky fabrics, but we weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel at all. It was just about making cool stuff. I got a little bit caught up in my mind on how I felt that the collection—I thought a lot about how it should fit in with what else is happening in the market, and this season I didn’t think about that at all. I feel like everybody in New York with social media and everything has some level of fashion fatigue.

I would say that’s accurate to a certain extent.

I’m just tired of it, and season-after-season—I feel like I’m almost regressing back to high school and what I was into in high school. The skateboard thing crept in more this season than ever before. I’m out in New Jersey skating all the time and wearing Carharrts. That idea of utilitarian clothing was much more the focus this time around.

Is that why you guys skipped out on New York Fashion Week: Men’s this season? 

That was certainly part of it. We are in a weird spot where if you look at what’s happening in New York at least from a fashion perspective—we don’t really fit in with what’s going on here. And the idea of showing our collection in Milan or Paris timing-wise is super hard and otherwise doesn’t make a lot of sense. It comes around to the idea that we’re not a fashion brand. And I’m OK with that. These are clothes that are made to be worn a lot, forever, and not once for a street style photograph and then never again.

Is a “fashion brand” to you any line that’s too in-the-moment?

Yeah, and I just don’t see staying power in that. There are other brands that are doing things that I like that have a presence in New York that don’t do [NYFW: M] either. I think about Brendon [Babenzien] at Noah, and Brendon’s not doing a presentation. They’re just different goals, and it’s a huge investment of time and money to show, and when you’re so small I’d rather take that time and effort and put it towards making the product better. And then also creating content that will live longer than 10 minutes or whatever the presentation would be. 

by Samuel Hine, GQ |  Read more:
Image: uncredited

Ani DiFranco

The True Story of the “Ellen Selfie”

[ed. A little late, but, yeah we all know how things went down at the Oscars last night. Here's an account of another Oscars moment. What's interesting to me is how scripted these 'moments' actually are. That's entertainment (and business), I guess.]

With Oscar night approaching, I find myself thinking back to one of the high points of my time at Twitter: The Academy Awards of 2014, and the famous “Ellen Selfie.”

From time to time, people ask me how that selfie came to be. It’s a pretty good story of collaboration, partnership and professionalism. And these days, a story with a happy ending is worth telling.

by Fred Graver, Medium |  Read more:
Image: Bradley Cooper

How Toshiba Lost $6 Billion

Since its founding in 1873 as Japan’s first maker of telegraph equipment, Toshiba has survived a litany of challenges, from the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, to having its factories bombed into rubble during World War II, to the drubbing of the Zune music player it co-developed with Microsoft. Now the conglomerate may be undone by four nuclear power plants under construction in the American South. Blown deadlines and budgets at the reactors in Georgia and South Carolina overseen by Toshiba’s Westinghouse Electric subsidiary resulted in the resignation of Toshiba Chairman Shigenori Shiga on Feb. 14 and a 712.5 billion yen ($6.3 billion) writedown on its nuclear reactor business.

That charge to cover cost overruns at Westinghouse eclipses the $5.4 billion that Toshiba paid for the company in 2006. The financial fallout of the nuclear business’s collapse is far greater. To stay afloat, Toshiba says it may have to sell a majority stake in its last remaining crown jewel: its flash-memory business, which makes chips used in smartphones and solid-state disk drives. The company already sold off its consumer electronics and medical equipment businesses following an accounting scandal in 2015.

“Toshiba is being torn apart,” says Amir Anvarzadeh, head of Japanese equity sales at BGC Partners in Singapore. “It’s going to survive, it’s not going to go bankrupt. But it’s the end of Toshiba as a company with any hopes to grow.”

Many investors apparently agree. The company, which had already lost $7 billion in market value over the past six weeks, saw its shares fall an additional 10 percent after the announcement of the writedown and Shiga’s departure. Another worry for the markets is that the huge Westinghouse charge will cause the company’s shareholder equity to drop to negative 150 billion yen for the current year ending in March, according to Toshiba forecasts.

Besides Toshiba investors, there’s another group of big losers: advocates of nuclear power, who had high hopes for Westinghouse, which in 2008 became the first U.S. company to win nuclear power plant construction permits since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. But the nuclear renaissance Toshiba bet on never materialized, in part because the company couldn’t build reactors along the timelines and within the budgets it had promised. It had anticipated that Westinghouse’s next-generation AP1000 modular reactor design would be easier and faster to execute—just the opposite of what happened. In a briefing after the writedown announcement, Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa said the company may now pull out of nuclear plant construction altogether and only provide equipment and engineering services, which would make it extremely difficult for it to sell nuclear projects to customers. All options are on the table for the nuclear business, including a possible sale of Westinghouse, he said.

“There’s billions and billions of dollars at stake here,” says Gregory Jaczko, former head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). “This could take down Toshiba, and it certainly means the end of new nuclear construction in the U.S.”

by Jason Clenfield,Yuji Nakamura, Takashi Amano,
Pavel Alpeyev, and Stephen Stapczynski, Bloomberg |  Read more:
Image: 731; Photos: AP Images (1); Getty images (1)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

David Byrne

Jean-Claude Terrier

Our Mysteriously Shrinking Kenai King Salmon

I attended a book signing at a Ninilchik book club meeting in early January of this year and met a bubbly lady by the name of Shirley, who, it turned out, is the stepdaughter of Les Anderson. You may remember that Anderson, fishing with friend Bud Lofstedt, caught the largest king salmon ever taken on rod and reel in North America.

The great fish was caught in the Kenai River on May 17, 1985. The behemoth weighed a whopping 97 pounds 4 ounces after laying in the bottom of Les' boat and then later his pickup truck for several hours. Reports indicate that the fish was beached around 7 a.m. but not weighed until 2 p.m. Many believe the fish would have topped 100 pounds had it been weighed immediately. We'll never know.

As Shirley and I bantered back and forth, she shared with me that she still has cans of Les' big king tucked away on the shelves of her pantry.

"Really!" I reacted with amazement.

She had my attention. Coincidentally, I had just finished reading several scientific papers written by fisheries scientists who used protein electrophoresis and mitochondrial DNA to separate the first run of Kenai River kings from second-run fish — or perhaps more accurately, tributary spawners from mainstem spawners.

My mind immediately began to race, thinking back on the last 32 years of Cook Inlet salmon fisheries management on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. I wondered what that DNA in those cans might reveal if we could analyze it. With today's technology and the king salmon DNA baseline data now available for many streams in the Kenai watershed, we could tell a lot about that fish if we just had a small tissue sample.

Turns out, once the flesh has been cooked, it renders it useless for DNA analysis. In addition, Les had the fish mounted, and all the tissue, head, entrails, and fins were disposed of long ago.

Still, it piqued my interest and got me thinking about the years since Les caught his great fish and how we moved from the king salmon abundance and size on the Kenai in 1985 to the low abundance and smaller kings seen in the 21st century.

That Les caught such a huge fish in mid-May was unusual and surprising by most people's standards. Les and Lofstedt were simply moving a boat from point A to Point B on the river. It was so early in the season that almost no one was fishing the river yet. Typically, the Kenai Peninsula is still pretty darn cold in May. Both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers are usually low and turbid at that time and have a reputation for eating up the props and lower units of outboard motors of even experienced fishermen who know the river.

Back then, fishing on the river usually didn't get going until Memorial Day weekend and fishing usually wasn't good until the first week in June.

Les and Lofstedt decided they might as well drift a Spin-N-Glo with eggs on their way down the river to their destination. Somewhere between two well-known spots, Pillars and Honeymoon Cove, Les hooked the big male. The duo fought the fish for more than an hour up and down the river and seemingly everything went wrong that could. They tangled their lines. Les fell in the bottom of the boat. The net was too small.

But humble Les Anderson hung on to that king. Finally, with Lofstedt's help, they beached the boat on an exposed gravel bar and dragged the huge fish to shore. Neither angler had any idea what they had just done. They continued to fish that morning and not until hours later — with the urging of friends — did they decide to weigh the king. The rest is history.

The big king is intriguing and the circumstances surrounding its capture begs many questions. As far as we know, a fish of comparable size had not been caught by anyone anywhere in North America for at least 36 years. According to biologists, Anderson's king was a "six-ocean" fish — a fish that spent one year in freshwater and six years at sea before returning to spawn. Six-ocean fish are rare and make up a very small percentage of the run. Most of the really large kings that return to the Kenai River are four- and five-ocean kings.

And what was that fish doing in the river so early? In mid-May, Kenai River guides were still tying leaders, working on their outboards and readying for the upcoming season. Fisheries data at the time told us that early-run kings were significantly smaller fish, on average, than late-run kings. Conventional wisdom at the time said that almost all big kings exceeding 60 pounds enter the river later in July and spawn in the main stem.

Was this fish a fluke or was his presence predictable? Was he a part of a heretofore unknown subpopulation that spawned in the Kenai's turquoise waters undetected by fisheries biologists? Had we been missing something all along about different stocks of Kenai River kings and their diverse run timing and spawning locations?

Radio telemetry studies have shown that some king salmon, after being released in the Kenai River with radio tags, continued their upstream migrations as far as 20 miles before abruptly turning back downstream and re-entering Cook Inlet — only to reascend the river days or weeks later.

Was this fish in the river to stay? Was it an early-run fish defying conventional wisdom regarding size? Was this a mainstem spawner or a tributary spawner headed for the Funny River or perhaps Benjamin Creek at the headwaters of the Killey River?

One thing is certain, even the monk Gregor Mendel (often called the father of genetics after his early work on pea plant cross-breeding) would agree that the genes this fish carried were unique and rare by today's standards.

When 60- to 80-pounders were common

History has documented king salmon well in excess of 100 pounds that were harvested commercially in the Columbia River in the early 1900s before the Grand Coulee Dam was built. The Columbia River kings were called "June hogs," a summer-running fish that spawned in its headwaters. Between overfishing that selected for larger fish and the installation of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia that prevented fish passage, the "June hogs" were extirpated by 1939 and their genetic templates lost forever. Today hatcheries do their best to replace and maintain those very fish by stocking millions of young salmon at a lofty price to taxpayers, but the native-fish genetic diversity, that was selected for over hundreds of years, was lost. Today's summer-run king salmon on the Columbia average 20 pounds.

Other North America rivers, besides the Columbia and the Kenai, that have produced some very large king salmon in the past, include the Umpqua, the Skeena, the Sacramento River, and of course our own Kasilof River. No other river, however, has consistently produced the number of extremely big fish that the Kenai once did.

Les Anderson's king is the largest king salmon known to exist since 1949, when a 126-pound chinook was captured in a commercial fish trap in saltwater near Petersburg in Southeast. That fish's stream of origin is unknown.

In the 1980s and '90s, Kenai River kings in the 60- to 80-pound range were almost a daily occurrence in July and, looking beyond Les' catch, 1985, in particular, was a memorable year for big fish. That year at least one other king broke 90 pounds and a handful of fish more than 80 pounds were taken. One of my clients, Jack Arthur from Chattanooga, Tennessee, landed an 85-pound king in July while fishing in the Deep Creek marine fishery near Ninilchik. That fish was undoubtedly a Kenai- or Kasilof-bound fish as well. What made 1985 such a good year for kings?

Was it a mild winter when that brood year was in the gravel? Was it good freshwater rearing and survival in the Kenai freshwater environment during the chinook's first year of life? Was it better-than-normal ocean survival and productivity that allowed them to grow so well as they reared in the Gulf of Alaska? Was there something about the handling of the commercial fishery that year that allowed so many kings into the river? Or were they just so numerous they overwhelmed all the net fisheries in the Inlet?

We don't know for sure. Maybe it was the perfect storm of all of these things. But one thing is certain: We have not seen the kings so big and in such numbers in the last decade.

by Mike Chihuly, Alaska Dispatch |  Read more:
Image: Ronnie Chappell / ADN
[ed. I went to trooper academy with Mike. Good guy, and passionate about the resource.]

Stevie Wonder

Rooftoppers: The Lure of Tall Buildings

When teenager Harry Gallagher clambered on to the roof of Canary Wharf’s highest building his exploits went viral. Gallagher, 19, aka Nightscape, is a rooftopper, someone who gains access to buildings and restricted spaces to take photographs of themselves, often hanging in precarious poses. To the uninitiated, it might appear to be a new phenomenon, but rooftopping’s genesis lies in the long-established urban explorer movement, known as urbex.

An early exponent was Jeff Chapman, or Ninjalicious, the late Toronto-based explorer who in the early noughties infiltrated buildings and underground systems, recording his adventures in his zine, Infiltration. Chapman tended to shun the limelight, but now rooftoppers are aiming ever higher in their quest for personal glory and reward.

“Urban exploring is beginning to splinter into different practices,” said Theo Kindynis, a criminologist at Roehampton University. “What was traditionally thought of as urban exploration, fetishists exploring abandoned mental asylums, that sort of thing, is mutating. You’ve now got subway explorers and you’ve got rooftoppers like Nightscape doing the foot-dangling thing. As a result, you’ve got new attitudes and etiquettes evolving. The old ‘take-nothing-but-photos-leave-nothing-but-footprints’ adage is increasingly irrelevant.”

Gallagher has previously targeted Robin Hood airport in Doncaster, the roof of West Ham’s new stadium, and the London Olympic park’s Orbit structure. His exploits are posted on his YouTube channel and promoted through Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. His latest “hack”, released online last week, will have helped send his reputation soaring. Gallagher and a friend can be seen climbing on to the roof of One Canada Square and scaling its pyramid.

At the start of the video, already viewed 450,000 times and liked by 45,000 people on YouTube, the pair describe the challenge as “almost impossible” and express astonishment that they were able to pull it off. But Kindynis is not convinced. “These guys are notorious within the scene for poaching other people’s spots. I highly doubt they were the first people to get on to the roof of One Canada Square. They were probably told how to do it by someone else. Within the urbex community, these things tend to be kept hush-hush, but now it’s on YouTube and they will have changed their security measures so nobody else will be able to enjoy that rooftop.

“Within certain elements of the community, these guys are not liked. They are seen as a problem. Cranes and construction sites and rooftops are getting locked down because these guys are prostituting it to social media.”

The high-profile stunts of Gallagher and his cohorts seem a world away from urbex’s original ethos and its political overtones. In an article for Domus magazine in 2011, Dr Bradley Garrett, an urban explorer and a geographer at Southampton University, suggested that urbex practitioners were reviving the practice of “usufruct” – “which basically means that someone has the right to use and enjoy the property of another, provided it is not changed or damaged in any way”.

But Kindynis suggests the selfie generation are not in it for the philosophy.

“For the people doing it, it’s all about the image, getting the cool, exclusive YouTubable footage. It’s about building their personal brand, all about the image, all about the spectacle.”

by Jamie Doward and Alice Gibbs, The Guardian |  Read more:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Another Day at the Office

In an industry whose top executives don’t make small change, Steve Schwarzman once again took home the most money among private equity titans for the year.

The Blackstone Group LP co-founder received $378 million in dividends on his stock ownership in 2016, according to calculations based on the firm’s annual report filed Friday with U.S. regulators. Including his cut of deal profits, salary and other compensation, Schwarzman took home $425 million, down from $734.2 million the previous year.

Private equity executives are some of the wealthiest financiers, drawing most of their income from dividends on their ownership in the companies. The founders of the largest private equity firms -- Blackstone, Apollo Global Management LLC, Carlyle Group LP, KKR & Co., Oaktree Capital Group LLC, Fortress Investment Group LLC, Ares Management LP and TPG -- are all billionaires, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

KKR co-founders Henry Kravis and George Roberts took home $116.1 million and $119.4 million, respectively, in 2016, according to the firm’s report filed Friday. That’s less than the previous year, when Kravis got $165.9 million and Roberts received $172.9 million.

In 2016 each cousin earned a $300,000 salary and about $63 million in carried interest, or his share of investment gains. Each took home more than $52 million in dividends.

by Melissa Mittelman, Bloomberg |  Read more:
Image: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

[ed. I don't care what Blackstone does. Is any single person worth over $1 billion in two years? I guess this is what's called Making America Great Again (which was when, exactly?). It used to be that we had strong unions that fought for decent wages, basic pension security and a dynamic middle class. Taxes were commensurate with earnings and promoted growth and infrastructure expansion. Government actually held financial institutions, health care and insurance providers accountable for predatory practices. How far back do you have to go to imagine a Great America again, and what would great look like? More trickle-down economics from benevolent billionaires? Throwing immigrants out so there's less competition and diversity? Making everyone shut up about whatever personal deviances they have, let alone give them legal standing? Bringing back industries and communities that technology and global competition have made irrelevant? I don't know. It's like wishing for Back to the Future... unless Biff takes over of course, and then... See also: How the Carried-Interest Loophole Makes the Super-Rich Super-Richer.]

Viet Huynh
, Carpe Diem

“Alcosynth” - the Secret to Drinking Without Regret?

As Prohibition showed, taking booze away from the public is wildly unpopular with just about everyone but Bible-thumpers and bootleggers. But what if, instead of being banned, alcohol was simply replaced with something better? Something that makes you feel talkative and sociable without also making you throw up/fall down/feel hungover/get fat/make terrible decisions/get into fist fights or any one of the other things on the shockingly long list of downsides we all know alcohol has?

“Alcosynth” probably sounds too good to be true: A synthetic form of booze with all the fun parts of alcohol but none of its downsides. A world where a night out ends without a single tearful argument, and where not one person worries about how they’re going to deal with their 8 a.m. meeting because hangovers no longer exist. It’s a utopian ideal that for many is more important — and certainly more relevant — than colonizing Mars. It would be—for the first time in the history of a species that has been consuming alcohol for 10 million years (if you include our ape ancestors)—a night of drinking with no penalty the next day. Though it sounds like a fantasy, it is the actual goal of David Nutt, a British scientist who has been touting the virtues of so-called alcosynths since 2014.

Following his groundbreaking research into benzodiazepines (drugs similar to Valium) in the early 1980s, Nutt has lectured at Oxford University, headed up the psychopharmacology unit at Bristol University and been president of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. He has also garnered a reputation for campaigning vigorously — and sometimes controversially — for changes to current drug laws, which he claims are interfering with the scientific community’s ability to sensibly study the effects of most psychoactive drugs. One such controversy — in which he published a study claiming that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol — saw him dismissed from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). In response, Nutt formed the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs alongside several fellow ACMD members who had resigned in protest.

We spoke with Nutt about his ongoing quest to convince a skeptical public that, with the right mix of targeted chemicals, there really is a safer alternative to alcohol.

In a 2010 study, you determined that alcohol was more harmful to society than either heroin or crack (although those were found to be more harmful at an individual level). How do you go about measuring something like that?

We developed a 16-point scale to work out all the different variables for the ways drugs can harm you: It runs from whether it can kill you when you first take it, like heroin, through to how much social damage and destruction it does. It turned out that with alcohol, there were nine harms to the user and seven harms to society — the social harms of alcohol are so enormous that it came out at number one. Alcohol is associated with over 50 percent of all domestic violence and almost all child abuse; vast amounts of health-care costs; and huge amounts of policing costs. That’s in British society, at least, although the study was replicated in Europe and they came to the same conclusion.

The bottom line is, I’ve worked in the field of alcohol for my whole professional life — I’ve worked on treatments for alcohol withdrawal, I’ve worked on anti-craving agents — and you can never truly get rid of the harms of alcohol, because it’s a toxic substance. We use it to kill bugs on the skin, you know? You wipe your skin with alcohol when you’re doing injections. Then [when you drink it] it’s metabolized to formaldehyde, which is the sort of thing you pickle dead sharks in. It’s always toxic and you can’t get around that.

You’ve proposed that we replace alcohol with something less harmful — what you’ve termed an “alcosynth.” How would such a substance work?Since you can’t get round [the problems that come with alcohol], what we need to do is find a way of replicating the good effects — things like relaxation and sociability, maybe a bit of animation. Over the years, enough people have studied the effects of alcohol on the brain that we’ve got a pretty good idea how to target just the good effects, but not the bad bits.

You’ve patented more than 90 potential alcosynth compounds — do any of them look promising?
Alcohol is a difficult drug to mimic, but we’ve got three or four good candidates. It’s not just about how they make you feel; you’ve also got to consider the cost of production and other variables. There are two compounds in particular that I’d be perfectly happy to raise some money for.

What’s the experience of being “drunk” on them like?

It’s just like alcohol! We tested it on people who’ve spent their whole lives in the alcohol industry and they can’t tell it apart. They say it’s just like being drunk, only you’re not quite as unsteady (which is something we intended — it was designed not to make you unsteady so people are less likely to fall into each other and start fights). I’ve used it a lot and it is like alcohol, only you don’t have a hangover, you don’t have gut ache, it doesn’t seem to cause aggression.

It has all sorts of benefits: It’s got a very clever design in the molecules so the peak effect flattens out, unlike alcohol, which never plateaus out. With alcohol, the more you drink, the more effects you get — it just keeps going until it kills you. With alcosynth, eight drinks is the same as four drinks — you won’t get any more damaged from it. What I want to do is get people drinking alcosynth so they can do what they always wanted to do — sit and talk to each other, have fun and chat each other up — without getting drunk, falling under the table and vomiting. With this stuff, four drinks would be all you’d need for a whole evening.

by Nick Leftly, MEL |  Read more:
Image: uncredited

Tokyo Plays Itself

On the top floor of @home cafe in Tokyo’s geek-friendly Akihabara district, in a low-ceilinged, brightly lit room that smelled of a poorly ventilated deep fryer, a coterie of frilly aproned maids were delivering wobbly, abstractly decadent Jell-O towers to their eager guests. Their up-pitched cries of "Okaerinasai goshujin-sama!" ("Welcome home, master!") pierced the air every time a new group of customers arrived, and clusters of middle-aged men queued up to get a picture with their favorite girls and a selection of oversized stuffed animals. It had been nine hours since I last ate, and my head spun as my friend and I took our seat. But with a quick glance around at the clientele, both male and female, all dazed under the spell of saccharine maid energy, it seemed like I was the only person in the room thinking about eating.

@home, one of the most popular maid cafes in Tokyo, had been temporarily made over as the GudetamaX@home Collab Café, and was now adorned with the likeness of the "lazy egg" Sanrio character that's become wildly popular both in Japan and the States. The experience was only superficially different from what one gets at a regular maid cafe, which became established as a distinct genre of restaurant in Tokyo about 15 years ago: maids calling you master (or mistress, in my case), maids writing your name in ketchup on your omurice (a rice-filled omelet, the quintessential maid cafe dish), maids doing cutesy chants over your food to make it taste better. If you care to cough up more money, a maid will come play a game with you at your table and ask you about your hobbies and your favorite animal. None of this feels terribly unusual at first — it’s kind of reminiscent of a low-rent Disneyland cafe — until you start paying attention to the adult men who’ve all come here alone.

Maid cafes are still plentiful, especially in this part of town, having enjoyed a boom in the mid-aughts that has only very gradually subsided. The real marvel at the Gudetama pop-up was, of course, the eggs, which were so uncanny that they defied my ability to discern whether they were truly the spawn of a chicken: perfectly round little discs with something resembling an over-easy yolk resting in the center, stamped with the signature gude gude (lazy) face. When I cut into one, the yellow goo that oozed out was salty-sweet and room temperature, recalling the creamy, synthetic insides of a Cadbury egg. Mine came with an ungainly slab of (again, room temperature) bacon atop a club sandwich, and what seemed to be sloppily stamped grill marks in the shape of Gudetama turned out to be cocoa powder.

The cafe collaboration was a pure distillation of Akihabara, once Tokyo’s electronics district, and now the international capital of moe. Moe is a hard-to-define term that literally means "budding" or "burning" and is most commonly used to describe the hyper-adorability of teen idol groups and anime heroines, embodied IRL by the maids at places like @home. But it also connotes a kind of drop-out mentality, a refusal to take part in mainstream corporate culture: In other words, floppy, lethargic Gudetama, who never seems to have the willpower to face the day, is perfectly @home on the shoulder of a cafe maid.

Even theme cafes that don’t revolve around lazy eggs are riffing on a version of this self-aware worthlessness, consciously or not. If Japan has been going through an identity crisis since the onset of its more than two-decade recession — a declining corporate culture, fewer marriages, plummeting birthrates, and increased nationalism — there are few places where it plays out in starker relief than in the country’s photo-op dining experiences. There’s a sense of denialist deja vu at these places; elements of bygone modern glory — bubble-era ostentation, the Harajuku heyday — repackaged in the predictable, passive comfort of a cafe. And how better to distract yourself from political and economic uncertainty than at a cat cafe or with a colorful Sailor Moon-themed cocktail? Despite being a tourist draw, this isn't Tokyo talking to the world, this is Tokyo talking to itself. (...)

I don't care how highbrow or cultured you consider yourself; every foreigner is eventually lured in by some form of Wacky Random Japan. At a certain point, circa Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls era, businesses began actively catering to the exoticized imagining of Tokyo that was cultivated through endless re-watchings of Lost In Translation, and later, countless fashion-obsessed Tumblrs.

The theme cafe is one of the more viral-friendly aspects of Wacky Random Japan, and there are three major subcategories within it. First, and perhaps the most popular theme cafe export, are the animal cafes, most of which are less cafes than indoor petting zoos. The beverages are an afterthought, and an awkward one at that — it's actually pretty hard to sip your Hitachino Nest Ale, the owl logo pointed out toward the camera, when you have an actual owl on your shoulder, no matter how on-brand. Second are theme restaurants, which are full-service restaurants where the decor, the menu, and the servers' outfits all revolve around a certain aesthetic, and usually a pretty mall-goth one at that: the Vampire Café, the Prison Restaurant, the (many) Alice in Wonderland cafes. Lastly, there are the maid cafes and their descendants, including the butler cafes and the Macho Café pop-up, where the servers — and their, uh, service — are the stars.

The frivolity and almost willful pointlessness might seem like a leftover from the ’80s bubble era, but the contemporary theme cafe continues the lineage of Western-style cafes that emerged in the 1920s. After "modern" hangouts with names like "Café Printemps" had established themselves in Tokyo among the intellectuals and artists, they began to diversify for a growing middle class; "Europe" was the original theme of Japanese cafes, but once Western-style eateries became more of a norm, new establishments had to step it up. "Rather than small eating and drinking places with tables set with white tablecloths and Parisian or provincial German decor," writes Elise K. Tipton, a professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Sydney, "the leading cafés became huge multistoried buildings glittering with neon lights, colored glass windows, light-reflective metallic surfaces, and rich furnishings."

"Cafes of these sorts were like theme parks, where you could go to take on a different 'self,' a playful performance," Merry White, a Boston University anthropology professor and author of Coffee Life in Japan, told me via email. "The salaryman postwar generation was also looking for novelty, for self-expression in the ‘third space’ (not work, not home) of the cafe." While they show all the signifiers of a tourist trap, most theme cafes still function primarily as a diversion for locals; the range of glamour has stratified as well, from the flashy anime-themed meccas to some so-called cafes that feel barely any different than just walking into a stranger’s apartment.

by Emily Yoshida, Eater |  Read more:
Image: Ko Sasaki

Friday, February 24, 2017

via: here and here
[ed. Nice swing.]

Inside an Oscars Campaign: Everything It Takes to Get a Gold Statue

It takes a village to get to the Academy Awards. But not just any village: One that is made up of power players, savvy in strategy and who will stop at nothing to take home that prized gold statue. The road to the Oscars is almost as cutthroat as a presidential campaign, only this time it's without out all the fake news and email scandals.

And yes, when it comes to trying to nab an Oscar, campaign is the best adjective to describe the process. It involves scheming and brainstorming and gobs and gobs of money. There are no ulterior motives or backroom deals and, really, no secrets—because the end goal is completely transparent. Movie studios (and the actors they employ) are in it to win it, and they'll do everything that's legal, and within their power, to do so.

But just because the process is lacking in smoke and mirrors doesn't mean it's any less interesting or mind-boggling. As the 2017 show approaches, there are, quite literally, hundreds of people who have spent the better part of the last six months (and given up the better part of their sanity) to come out on top come Sunday at 9 p.m.

by Seija Rankin, E News |  Read more:
Image: Getty

Defensive Architecture For Libraries

The architect presented the landscaping plans for the library at a meeting in December. “It’s really going to be a defensive type of landscape,” she said to community members gathered at the library in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

She enumerated the features that would make the outside of the library a harder place to spend time: railings on walls to prevent sitting, undulating rock formations to prevent encampments, benches with armrests to prevent people from lying down.

A local resident, addressing the room, said tough measures were crucial, complaining that the library is the “destination of choice for the transients that are causing so much trouble in our neighborhood”.

Of all the places associated in the popular imagination with homelessness – park benches, skid rows, the undersides of freeways – libraries are likely low on the list. Yet the Castro branch, like others across California and elsewhere in the western US, is treated by many homeless people as a sanctuary from streets that can be cold, wet and dangerous.

Some residents, however, have urged making libraries or their environs less attractive to homeless visitors.

There has been “a huge increase” in the number of libraries offering homelessness programs since the late 2000s, according to Julie Todaro, president of the American Library Association. “What is continuously upsetting to us is the condition in which people have to exist.”

The allure of libraries for people with no permanent home is obvious. There is no cost to enter. They are warm and safe. They offer internet, electrical sockets, and materials that provide a mental escape from everyday life. Nurses patrol libraries in Pima County, Arizona, while in Salt Lake City, residents opposed plans to open the main branch 24 hours a day, fearing it would become a de facto homeless shelter. San Francisco’s main library, in the city’s downtown area, has a full-time social worker. (...)

The proposals, not yet finalized, echo other attempts to make public spaces unappealing to homeless people: jagged rocks under a freeway bridge in San Diego, and iron spikes on planter boxes outside a San Francisco supermarket.

by Alastair Gee, The Guardian |  Read more:
Image: Alastair Gee

Why Nothing Works Anymore

“No… it’s a magic potty,” my daughter used to lament, age 3 or so, before refusing to use a public restroom stall with an automatic-flush toilet. As a small person, she was accustomed to the infrared sensor detecting erratic motion at the top of her head and violently flushing beneath her. Better, in her mind, just to delay relief than to subject herself to the magic potty’s dark dealings.

It’s hardly just a problem for small people. What adult hasn’t suffered the pneumatic public toilet’s whirlwind underneath them? Or again when attempting to exit the stall? So many ordinary objects and experiences have become technologized—made dependent on computers, sensors, and other apparatuses meant to improve them—that they have also ceased to work in their usual manner. It’s common to think of such defects as matters of bad design. That’s true, in part. But technology is also more precarious than it once was. Unstable, and unpredictable. At least from the perspective of human users. From the vantage point of technology, if it can be said to have a vantage point, it's evolving separately from human use. (...)

The contemporary public restroom offers an example. Infrared-sensor flush toilets, fixtures, and towel-dispensers are sometimes endorsed on ecological grounds—they are said to save resources by regulating them. But thanks to their overzealous sensors, these toilets increase water or paper consumption substantially. Toilets flush three times instead of one. Faucets open at full-blast. Towel dispensers mete out papers so miserly that people take more than they need. Instead of saving resources, these apparatuses mostly save labor and management costs. When a toilet flushes incessantly, or when a faucet shuts off on its own, or when a towel dispenser discharges only six inches of paper when a hand waves under it, it reduces the need for human workers to oversee, clean, and supply the restroom. (...)

Once decoupled from their economic motivations, devices like automatic-flush toilets acclimate their users to apparatuses that don’t serve users well in order that they might serve other actors, among them corporations and the sphere of technology itself. In so doing, they make that uncertainty feel normal.

It’s a fact most easily noticed when using old-world gadgets. To flush a toilet or open a faucet by hand offers almost wanton pleasure given how rare it has become. A local eatery near me whose interior design invokes the 1930s features a bathroom with a white steel crank-roll paper towel dispenser. When spun on its ungeared mechanism, an analogous, glorious measure of towel appears directly and immediately, as if sent from heaven. (...)

The common response to precarious technology is to add even more technology to solve the problems caused by earlier technology. Are the toilets flushing too often? Revise the sensor hardware. Is online news full of falsehoods? Add machine-learning AI to separate the wheat from the chaff. Are retail product catalogs overwhelming and confusing? Add content filtering to show only the most relevant or applicable results.

But why would new technology reduce rather than increase the feeling of precarity? The more technology multiplies, the more it amplifies instability. Things already don’t quite do what they claim. The fixes just make things worse. And so, ordinary devices aren’t likely to feel more workable and functional as technology marches forward. If anything, they are likely to become even less so.

by Ian Bogost, The Atlantic |  Read more:
Image: Kala /Getty

Gil Scott Heron

[ed. Still can't believe he's gone... 5 or 6 years now? See also: I'm New Here.

The Anatomy of Charisma

For weeks I had been researching what science has to say about the power of charisma. Why do some people so clearly have it and others don’t? Why do we fall so easily under its influence? Charismatics can make us feel charmed and great about ourselves. They can inspire us to excel. But they can also be dangerous. They use charisma for their own purposes, to enhance their power, to manipulate others.

Scientists have plenty to say about charisma. Individuals with charisma tap our unfettered emotions and can shut down our rational minds. They hypnotize us. But studies show charisma is not just something a person alone possesses. It’s created by our own perceptions, particularly when we are feeling vulnerable in politically tense times. I’m going to tell you about these studies and spotlight the opinions of the neuroscientists, psychologists, and sociologists who conducted them.

But first I want to tell you about a magnetic preacher who spent decades wowing audiences in churches across America with the holy words of Jesus. Then he lost his faith and now preaches about how to live happily without God. What scientists study about charisma, Bart Campolo lives.

I first read about the newly non-believing Campolo in The New York Times Magazine last December. “An extreme extrovert, he was brilliant before a crowd and also at ease in private conversations, connecting with everyone from country-club suburbanites to the destitute souls he often fed in his own house,” wrote Mark Oppenheimer. Campolo’s father is Tony Campolo, one of America’s superstar evangelists for the past 50 years, who counseled Bill Clinton through the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and today continues to mobilize people into a movement for Jesus’ messages of love and redemption.

Who would know more about the power of charisma to both charm and deceive than a preacher’s son gone rogue? Campolo, 53, who today volunteers counseling young people as a “humanist chaplain” at the University of Southern California, didn’t disappoint. He was wonderfully frank and engaging, energetic and insightful, just like a, well, evangelical preacher.

The early 20th-century German sociologist Max Weber wrote charisma is a quality that sets an individual “apart from ordinary men,” and causes others to treat him as “endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” Such qualities, Weber wrote, “are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader.”

Campolo had long believed that was true. “I was convinced charisma flowed directly from God,” he told me. “It was a gift.” As he began to lose his faith, he said, “I passed through every stage of apostasy on my way to heresy, I slowly left my ability to believe in all this stuff.” He began to preach that charisma may be something you’re born with, but it wasn’t supernatural; you could employ it at will. “You can use it to get women in bed, you can use it to win people down the aisle for Jesus, or you can use it to sell insurance,” Campolo said. What’s more, it was a quality that could, at least in part, be learned and perfected.

That was precisely what John Antonakis, a professor of organizational behavior, and the director of the doctoral program in management at the University of Lausanne who has spent years studying charismatic speakers, told me. “Charismatic techniques can be taught,” he said. Antonakis has identified a series of what he calls Charismatic Leadership Tactics (CLTs), which range from the use of metaphors and storytelling to nonverbal methods of communication like open posture and animated, representative gestures at key moments. When taken together, he has shown, they have helped decide eight of the last 10 presidential elections. “The more charismatic leadership tactics used, the more individuals will be seen as leader-like by others,” he said. (Read here how Antonakis breaks down the CLTs of super-popular TV preacher Joel Osteen.)

Tony Campolo had mastered all the tactics. In the 1970s and ’80s, Bart Campolo and his father traversed the country in a beat-up, sky-blue Dodge Coronet, giving sermons wherever they could. Campolo marveled at his father in action. “My dad was one of the most charismatic people in the world,” Campolo said. “I’ve been around black preachers and people like my dad, who can go up and down the spectrum, do the whisper that you can’t help but listen to, tell the joke, then tell the tear-jerking story, and then the fiery fulmination. He can do it all over the map.”

by Adam Piore, Nautilus |  Read more:
Image: uncredited

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hiroshige, “Yellowtail, Blowfish, and Plum Blossoms”

Politics 101

How the Story of “Moana” and Maui Holds Up Against Cultural Truths

I've said it before and I will say it again: the colonization of Pacific Islands is the greatest human adventure story of all time.

People using Stone Age technology built voyaging canoes capable of traveling thousands of miles, then set forth against the winds and currents to find tiny dots of land in the midst of the largest ocean on Earth. And having found them, they traveled back and forth, again and again, to settle them—all this, 500 to 1,000 years ago.

Ever since Captain Cook landed in the Hawaiian Islands and realized that the inhabitants spoke a cognate language to those of the South Pacific islands, scholars and others have researched and theorized about the origins and migrations of the Polynesians.

The Hōkūleʻa voyaging canoe has proved the efficacy of traditional Oceanic navigation since 1976, when it embarked on its historic maiden voyage to recover the lost heritage of this ocean-sailing tradition. The general scholarship on migrations seems well established, and most current researches now seek to understand the timing of the various colonizations.

But one huge mystery, sometimes called “The Long Pause” leaves a gaping hole in the voyaging timeline.

Western Polynesia—the islands closest to Australia and New Guinea—were colonized around 3,500 years ago. But the islands of Central and Eastern Polynesia were not settled until 1,500 to 500 years ago. This means that after arriving in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, Polynesians took a break—for almost 2,000 years—before voyaging forth again.

Then when they did start again, they did so with a vengeance: archaeological evidence suggests that within a century or so after venturing forth, Polynesians discovered and settled nearly every inhabitable island in the central and eastern Pacific.

Nobody knows the reason for The Long Pause, or why the Polynesians started voyaging again.

Several theories have been proposed—from a favorable wind caused by a sustained period of El Niño, to visible supernovas luring the stargazing islanders to travel, to ciguatera poisoning caused by algae blooms.

Enter Moana, the latest Disney movie, set in what appears to be Samoa, even though most American audiences will see it as Hawaii.

Moana—pronounced “moh-AH-nah,” not “MWAH-nah” means “ocean”—and the character is chosen by the sea itself to return the stolen heart of Te Fiti, who turns out to be an island deity (Tahiti, in its various linguistic forms, including Tafiti, is a pan-Polynesian word for any faraway place).

The heart of Te Fiti is a greenstone (New Zealand Maori) amulet stolen by the demigod Maui. An environmental catastrophe spreading across the island makes the mission urgent. And despite admonitions from her father against anyone going beyond the protective reef, Moana steals a canoe and embarks on her quest.

But as should be expected whenever Disney ventures into cross-cultural milieus, the film is characterized by the good, the bad and the ugly.

Moana’s struggle to learn to sail and get past the reef of her home island sets the stage for her learning of true wayfinding. It also shows traces of Armstrong Sperry’s stirring, classic book Call It Courage, and Tom Hanks's Castaway.

But the film's story also has a different angle with a powerful revelation: Moana’s people had stopped voyaging long ago, and had placed a taboo—another Polynesian world—on going beyond the reef.

With the success of Moana’s mission and her having learned the art of wayfinding, her people start voyaging again.

And so the Long Pause comes to an end, Disney style, with a great fleet of canoes setting forth across the ocean to accomplish the greatest human adventure of all time. I admit to being moved by this scene.

As someone who lectures on traditional oceanic navigation and migration, I can say resoundingly that it is high time the rest of the world learned this amazing story.

But then there is much to criticize.

by Doug Herman, Smithsonian |  Read more:
Image: Phil Uhl/Wikimedia Commons

[ed. Uh, Mr. President? Sir?...]

The GOP's Obamacare Replacement Plan

S. 107

To replace the Affordable Care Act of 2010 with affordable, quality self-care tips for all Americans.


Mr. CRUZ (for himself, Mr. McCONNELL, Mr. RUBIO, and Mr. PAUL) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.


That is way better than the Affordable Care Act of 2010. We promise.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


a.) SHORT TITLE. — This Act may be cited as the “Self-Care Act of 2017.”

b.) INTRODUCTION. — The Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111–148) will be replaced with the Self-Care Act. Americans surviving under the SCA will be provided with helpful and cost-effective self-care tips that can be performed without the assistance of medical professionals. Tax-paying Americans will no longer be burdened with paying for a broken healthcare system (cough, Obamacare, cough). Those insured under the Self-Care Act cannot be denied health care for pre-existing conditions because they will be their own healthcare providers. Think of this bill as providing assurance instead of insurance.

c.) TABLE OF DIVISIONS, TITLES, AND SUBTITLES. —This Act is divided into divisions, titles, and subtitles as follows:
Subtitle A—Walk It Off
Subtitle B—Get Some Rest
Subtitle C—Read the Bible
Subtitle D—Shoot a Gun
Subtitle E—Suck It Up, Crybaby
Subtitle F—Mrs. McConnell’s Chicken Soup Recipe 
Subtitle A—Happiness is a Choice
Subtitle B—Just Be Normal
Subtitle C—Pray the Gay Away
Subtitle D—Make Love to a Gun
Subtitle D—Snap Out of It, Snowflake
Subtitle E—Mrs. Cruz’s Bathtub Zoloft Recipe 
Subtitle A—Don’t Have an Abortion
Subtitle B—Don’t Have an Abortion
Subtitle C—Don’t Have an Abortion
Subtitle D—You Have a Baby Now! 
Subtitle A—Listen to Your Dad
Subtitle B—Listen to Your Brother
Subtitle C—Listen to Your Husband
Subtitle D—Listen to Your Son
Subtitle E—Listen to Jesus
Subtitle F—Listen to Your Male Teacher
Subtitle G—Listen to Your Mailman
Subtitle H—Listen to That Homeless Man
Subtitle I—Take a Bubble Bath, Or Something 
Subtitle A—Sending Thoughts and Prayers!
by Leah Slater, McSweeny's |  Read more:

Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber

[ed. See also: For the Want of a Leather Jacket, Is Uber Lost?]

As most of you know, I left Uber in December and joined Stripe in January. I've gotten a lot of questions over the past couple of months about why I left and what my time at Uber was like. It's a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told while it is still fresh in my mind, so here we go.

I joined Uber as a site reliability engineer (SRE) back in November 2015, and it was a great time to join as an engineer. They were still wrangling microservices out of their monolithic API, and things were just chaotic enough that there was exciting reliability work to be done. The SRE team was still pretty new when I joined, and I had the rare opportunity to choose whichever team was working on something that I wanted to be part of.

After the first couple of weeks of training, I chose to join the team that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started getting weird. On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.

Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on - unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he "was a high performer" (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.

I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that. I remarked that this didn't seem like much of a choice, and that I wanted to stay on the team because I had significant expertise in the exact project that the team was struggling to complete (it was genuinely in the company's best interest to have me on that team), but they told me the same thing again and again. One HR rep even explicitly told me that it wouldn't be retaliation if I received a negative review later because I had been "given an option". I tried to escalate the situation but got nowhere with either HR or with my own management chain (who continued to insist that they had given him a stern-talking to and didn't want to ruin his career over his "first offense"). (...)

Over the next few months, I began to meet more women engineers in the company. As I got to know them, and heard their stories, I was surprised that some of them had stories similar to my own. Some of the women even had stories about reporting the exact same manager I had reported, and had reported inappropriate interactions with him long before I had even joined the company. It became obvious that both HR and management had been lying about this being "his first offense", and it certainly wasn't his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his "first offense". The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done. (...)

When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25% women. By the time I was trying to transfer to another eng organization, this number had dropped down to less than 6%. Women were transferring out of the organization, and those who couldn't transfer were quitting or preparing to quit. There were two major reasons for this: there was the organizational chaos, and there was also the sexism within the organization. When I asked our director at an org all-hands about what was being done about the dwindling numbers of women in the org compared to the rest of the company, his reply was, in a nutshell, that the women of Uber just needed to step up and be better engineers.

Things were beginning to get even more comically absurd with each passing day. Every time something ridiculous happened, every time a sexist email was sent, I'd sent a short report to HR just to keep a record going. Things came to a head with one particular email chain from the director of our engineering organization concerning leather jackets that had been ordered for all of the SREs. See, earlier in the year, the organization had promised leather jackets for everyone in organization, and had taken all of our sizes; we all tried them on and found our sizes, and placed our orders. One day, all of the women (there were, I believe, six of us left in the org) received an email saying that no leather jackets were being ordered for the women because there were not enough women in the organization to justify placing an order. I replied and said that I was sure Uber SRE could find room in their budget to buy leather jackets for the, what, six women if it could afford to buy them for over a hundred and twenty men. The director replied back, saying that if we women really wanted equality, then we should realize we were getting equality by not getting the leather jackets. He said that because there were so many men in the org, they had gotten a significant discount on the men's jackets but not on the women's jackets, and it wouldn't be equal or fair, he argued, to give the women leather jackets that cost a little more than the men's jackets. We were told that if we wanted leather jackets, we women needed to find jackets that were the same price as the bulk-order price of the men's jackets.

I forwarded this absurd chain of emails to HR, and they requested to meet with me shortly after. I don't know what I expected after all of my earlier encounters with them, but this one was more ridiculous than I could have ever imagined. The HR rep began the meeting by asking me if I had noticed that *I* was the common theme in all of the reports I had been making, and that if I had ever considered that I might be the problem. I pointed out that everything I had reported came with extensive documentation and I clearly wasn't the instigator (or even a main character) in the majority of them - she countered by saying that there was absolutely no record in HR of any of the incidents I was claiming I had reported (which, of course, was a lie, and I reminded her I had email and chat records to prove it was a lie). She then asked me if women engineers at Uber were friends and talked a lot, and then asked me how often we communicated, what we talked about, what email addresses we used to communicate, which chat rooms we frequented, etc. - an absurd and insulting request that I refused to comply with. When I pointed out how few women were in SRE, she recounted with a story about how sometimes certain people of certain genders and ethnic backgrounds were better suited for some jobs than others, so I shouldn't be surprised by the gender ratios in engineering. Our meeting ended with her berating me about keeping email records of things, and told me it was unprofessional to report things via email to HR.

by Susan J. Fowler |  Read more: