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Posts Tagged ‘James Hamblin

Tidbits and comments. Part 401

James Hamblin asks why millions of people are so eager to celebrate fake holidays created by corporations (Like National Fajita Day, National Cheese Toast Day) , and tries to register a day of his own.

Israel conducted a major suicide drone attack on Lebanon in Hezbollah Da7iyat stronghold. The two drones were to detonate, one after another, to insure success of the operation. Israel Natanyaho, trailing in the pole for September election, wished a major propaganda result, as Obama did with assassination of Ben Laden in Pakistan.

The Great White Male’s combination of good education, manners, charm, confidence and sexual attractiveness (or “money”) means he has a strong grip on the keys to power. Of course, the main reason he has those qualities in the first place is what he is, not what he has achieved.

Lebanon State survival, so far, is due to its extreme fragility, in its social fabrics. No colonial powers or emerging countries can dominate this semi-state by any means. Same for its internal organizations.

Over 90 Amazon tribes have disappeared in the last century. This current gigantic fire is meant to eradicate the remnant tribes, barely numbered in 100,000 individuals.

If the Amazon burning is meant to transfer the aborigine tribes to make space for US multinational agribusinesses, would I burning my ugly garden make any difference?

Last century, Brazil constructed 5,000 km route in the Amazon to clear the space for the white settlers. Quickly, this route was transformed into a mud river at the first torrential rain.

Currently, war battles are in pictures and videos. As for the sound, it is a reserved right for the people close to the battle fields.

Vigilantes without weapons are the rage in England, Scandinavian States and Germany. The risk is to be transformed into a militia mentality and imposing own judgmental rules and laws

Are there any meaningful purposes for people to accept sweatshop jobs other than basic economic necessities? George Orwell in his “Down and out in Paris and London” tried to explain why people insist on working long hours, over 17 hours, everyday in mines and as plunger “plongeur” in hotels and restaurants.

A lawsuit filed earlier this week in the US shows it in chilling detail: The dehumanization of asylum seekers and migrants is routine in detention camps—and it doesn’t spare children. According to these children, guards shout at and threaten toddlers and babies; there is often not enough to eat, and clean water is harshly rationed.

Children are crammed in sleeping areas too small for everyone to lie down, without blankets, in cold rooms where lights blare 24 hours a day, and frequent check-ins interrupt what little sleep they manage. Girls receive one sanitary pad per day during their periods, left to bleed through their pants and wear soiled clothes.

This suffering of refugee children, in camps and on seas, cannot be blamed on politics alone. There’s a silent majority that is allowing it to continue—not protesting, not calling our representatives, not taking to the streets. Hundreds of millions of us who keep going about our days as if children weren’t being treated as less than humans in our own countries. There’s a word for this: complicity. —Annalisa Merelli and Annaliese Griffin

Invisible ink stamps could fix Japan’s subway groping. The “anti-groping” stamps—which allow victims to secretly mark their assailants—sold out in minutes.

The US Space Command gets off the ground. Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence will attend a White House ceremony marking the launch of SPACECOM, the first new armed forces branch in a decade. But the command, intended to boost US military capabilities in space, has yet to decide on the location of its headquarters.

China’s investment in Africa over the past two decades has been both unprecedented and unparalleled.

 

Buy Experiences, Not Things

Live in anticipation, gathering stories and memories. New research builds on the vogue mantra of behavioral economics.

Northern lights over a camp north of the Arctic Circle, October 2014 Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

47% of the time, the average mind is wandering. (I think that ratio is little)

It wanders about a third of the time while a person is reading, talking with other people, or taking care of children.

It wanders 10 percent of the time during sex.

And that wandering, according to psychologist Matthew Killingsworth, is not good for well-being. (I must be good, otherwise we all die early on from stress)

A mind belongs in one place. During his training at Harvard, Killingsworth compiled those numbers and built a scientific case for every cliché about living in the moment.

In a 2010 Science paper co-authored with psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, the two wrote that “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” (Depending where the mind is wandering toward)

For Killingsworth, happiness is in the content of moment-to-moment experiences.

Nothing material is intrinsically valuable, except in whatever promise of happiness it carries.

Satisfaction in owning a thing does not have to come during the moment it’s acquired, of course. It can come as anticipation or nostalgic longing.

Overall, though, the achievement of the human brain to contemplate events past and future at great, tedious length has, these psychologists believe, come at the expense of happiness. Minds tend to wander to dark, not whimsical, places. Unless that mind has something exciting to anticipate or sweet to remember.

James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk. | More

Mean self-reported ratings
(Kumar et al, Psychological Science/The Atlantic)

Waiting for an experience apparently elicits more happiness and excitement than waiting for a material good (and more “pleasantness” too—an eerie metric).

By contrast, waiting for a possession is more likely fraught with impatience than anticipation. “You can think about waiting for a delicious meal at a nice restaurant or looking forward to a vacation,” Kumar told me, “and how different that feels from waiting for, say, your pre-ordered iPhone to arrive. Or when the two-day shipping on Amazon Prime doesn’t seem fast enough.”

Gilovich’s prior work has shown that experiences tend to make people happier because they are less likely to measure the value of their experiences by comparing them to those of others.

For example, Gilbert and company note in their new paper, many people are unsure if they would rather have a high salary that is lower than that of their peers, or a lower salary that is higher than that of their peers. With an experiential good like vacation, that dilemma doesn’t hold. Would you rather have two weeks of vacation when your peers only get one? Or four weeks when your peers get eight? People choose four weeks with little hesitation.

Experiential purchases are also more associated with identity, connection, and social behavior. Looking back on purchases made, experiences make people happier than do possessions.

It’s kind of counter to the logic that if you pay for an experience, like a vacation, it will be over and gone; but if you buy a tangible thing, a couch, at least you’ll have it for a long time.

Actually most of us have a pretty intense capacity for tolerance, or hedonic adaptation, where we stop appreciating things to which we’re constantly exposed. iPhones, clothes, couches, et cetera, just become background. They deteriorate or become obsolete.

It’s the fleetingness of experiential purchases that endears us to them. Either they’re not around long enough to become imperfect, or they are imperfect, but our memories and stories of them get sweet with time. Even a bad experience becomes a good story.

When it rains through a beach vacation, as Kumar put it, “People will say, well, you know, we stayed in and we played board games and it was a great family bonding experience or something.”

Even if it was negative in the moment, it becomes positive after the fact. That’s a lot harder to do with material purchases because they’re right there in front of you. “When my Macbook has the colorful pinwheel show up,” he said, “I can’t say, well, at least my computer is malfunctioning!”

“At least my computer and I get to spend more time together because it’s working so slowly,” I offered.

“Yes, exactly.”

“Maybe we should destroy our material possessions at their peak, so they will live on in an idealized state in our memories?”

“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” he said. “The possibility of making material purchases more experiential is sort of interesting.”

That means making purchasing an experience, which is terrible marketing-speak, but in practical terms might mean buying something on a special occasion or on vacation or while wearing a truly unique hat. Or tying that purchase to subsequent social interaction. Buy this and you can talk about buying it, and people will talk about you because you have it.

“Turns out people don’t like hearing about other people’s possessions very much,” Kumar said, “but they do like hearing about that time you saw Vampire Weekend.”

I can’t imagine ever wanting to hear about someone seeing Vampire Weekend, but I get the point.

Reasonable people are just more likely to talk about their experiential purchases than their material purchases. It’s a nidus for social connection. (“What did you do this weekend?” “Well! I’m so glad you asked … “)

The most interesting part of the new research, to Kumar, was the part that “implies that there might be notable real-world consequences to this study.”

It involved analysis of news stories about people waiting in long lines to make a consumer transaction. Those waiting for experiences were in better moods than those waiting for material goods. “You read these stories about people rioting, pepper-spraying, treating each other badly when they have to wait,” he said.

It turns out, those sorts of stories are much more likely to occur when people are waiting to acquire a possession than an experience. When people are waiting to get concert tickets or in line at a new food truck, their moods tend to be much more positive.

“There are actually instances of positivity when people are waiting for experiences,” Kumar said, like talking to other people in the concert line about what songs Vampire Weekend might play. So there is opportunity to connect with other people.

“We know that social interaction is one of the most important determinants of human happiness, so if people are talking with each other, being nice to one another in the line, it’s going to be a lot more pleasant experience than if they’re being mean to each other which is what’s (more) likely to happen when people are waiting for material goods.”

Research has also found that people tend to be more generous to others when they’ve just thought about an experiential purchase as opposed to a material purchase. They’re also more likely to pursue social activities.

So, buying those plane tickets is good for society. (Of course, maximal good to society and personal happiness comes from pursuing not happiness but meaning. All of this behavioral economics-happiness research probably assumes you’ve already given aw9% of your income to things bigger than yourself, and there’s just a very modest amount left to maximally utilize.)

What is it about the nature of imagining experiential purchases that’s different from thinking about future material purchases?

The most interesting hypothesis is that you can imagine all sort of possibilities for what an experience is going to be. “That’s what’s fun,” Kumar said. “It could turn out a whole host of ways.”

With a material possession, you kind of know what you’re going to get. Instead of whetting your appetite by imagining various outcomes, Kumar put it, people sort of think, Just give it to me now.

It could turn out that to get the maximum utility out of an experiential purchase, it’s really best to plan far in advance. Savoring future consumption for days, weeks, years only makes the experience more valuable.

It definitely trumps impulse buying, where that anticipation is completely squandered. (Never impulse-buy anything ever.)

That sort of benefit would likely be a lot stronger in an optimistic person as opposed to a pessimistic person. Some people hate surprises. Some people don’t anticipate experiences because they dwell on what could—no, will—go wrong. But we needn’t dwell in their heads.

Everyone can decide on the right mix of material and experiential consumption to maximize their well-being. The broader implications, according to Gilovich in a press statement, are that “well-being can be advanced by providing infrastructure that affords experiences, such as parks, trails, and beaches, as much as it does material consumption.” Or at least the promise of that infrastructure, so we can all look forward to using it. And when our minds wander, that’s where they’ll go.

Hey Vox: Can you Explain this Map?

Vox was co-founded by Melissa Bell and Ezra Klein, late of the Washington Post, and former Slate blogger Matt Yglesias (fun picture here! scroll down), the three of whom lured a posse of young-ish writers to join the staff, including, from the PostMax Fisher, who compiled the “40 Maps.”

Andrew Bossone shared this link

Another deconstruction of a bad @voxdotcom explainer map.

This one on Arabic dialects, by @meriponline

Vox is perhaps the most prominent of the new sites devoted to “explainer…
Chris Toensing published this May 24, 2014

In early May ,the website Vox made a small splash on the Internet with “40 Maps That Explain the Middle East.”

Vox is perhaps the most prominent of the new sites devoted to “explainer journalism,” a genre of primers that combine key data with brief analysis, often in attention-grabbing, multi-media formats.

The motivation for starting Vox, according to Klein, was to ameliorate the “anxiety” that he imagines readers must feel when approaching major news stories for the first time.

“There’s a problem in journalism,” he says in a YouTube promo. “We call certain topics that we cover the vegetables, or the spinach, as if they’re gross, and people should be reading them, but they’re not going to want to.”

“Explainer journalism” has drawn some fire for condescending to its audience, assuming as it does that readers don’t read regular coverage, at least not carefully enough to comprehend the story.

As James Hamblin puts it at The Awl, “An explainer is an article that breaks down an important topic into just the things you care about and need to know. It’s unlike all other kinds of articles in that way.”

Other critics complain that the genre is rather insulting to journalists as well, implying that old-school reporters are too lazy, jaded or unskilled to convey what readers need to situate daily news in proper context.

Says Democracy’s Nathan Pippenger: “This issue is even more sensitive when it comes to foreign affairs, since many old-fashioned print journalists (like Daniel Pearl and Anthony Shadid) have died in war zones in order to bring what Klein calls ‘vegetable’ stories to American readers.”

These objections notwithstanding, some might think that Vox is doing a service, explaining the background to current events in easily digested bite-size form. (MERIP might not exist, after all, if the corporate media was not often derelict in its duties.)

Alas, early offerings with regard to the Middle East suggest otherwise.

Yousef Munayyer, for instance, has thoroughly debunked a set of maps that purport to explain the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The adjacent map depicting the geographic distribution of Arabic dialects is equally misleading to the point of misinformation.

This map, which seems to have been compiled (or perhaps just lifted) from Wikipedia, is downright inaccurate in several places.

Chris Stone is associate professor of Arabic at Hunter College. Before he began his doctoral work, he lived in Yemen for three years, teaching English in the Peace Corps.

It would be bad enough, Stone says, “if the map claimed just one dialect for Yemen, but to claim that all of Yemen and coastal Somalia speak the same dialect is patently absurd.”

Yemeni dialects differ in pronunciation, cadence, vocabulary, idiom and syntax — not to the point of being mutually unintelligible but certainly to the point of requiring occasional translation.

The dialects spoken in northern Egypt and the areas marked olive green for Levantine countries (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine) likewise vary considerably, sometimes from valley to valley and village to village.

In Sudan and South Sudan, respectively, the map identifies Nubi Arabic in orange and Juba Arabic in deep beige. The first reference is a flat-out mistake: Some of the Nilotic peoples in the north of Sudan identify as Nubians, and they may speak the distinct language called Nubian as well as an Arabic similar to that spoken in Khartoum.

Nubi is an Arabic-based creole spoken in a few East African port towns. Meanwhile, according to MER editor Khalid Medani, who is from Sudan, there’s a missing dialect — Nuba Arabic, “a creole spoken in the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan. It is a mix of Arabic and Nuba not Nubian. Folks often get those two confused.”

Juba Arabic is also a creole, Medani continues, “spoken by the Nilotic Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk, especially in Juba where it is the second vernacular.” The Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk are not Arabs, by the way — more on that in a minute.

Surely the oddest error of fact appears in mustard yellow for Judeo-Arabic, which the map locates (solely) in central Israel. Indeed, linguists do speak of such a thing as spoken Judeo-Arabic, in which Arab Jews sprinkle ancient Hebrew and Aramaic terms.

Judeo-Arabic, however, normally refers to a written language, namely, classical Arabic written in Hebrew script. More to the point, while there were small communities of Arabic-speaking Jews in Palestine before the creation of the state of Israel, the large majority of Israeli Jews of Arab origin hail from other Arab countries and, if they still speak Arabic, they speak the dialect of those countries.

“Jews from Morocco, Iraq and Yemen speak the same Arabic dialect?” Stone queries. “I smell ideology.” (Incompetence seems just as likely, since all of the information in this paragraph is in the Wikipedia entry for “Judeo-Arabic languages.”

Maybe that entry needs an “explainer.” Or maybe the title does, since the plural is right there in the third word.)

We could list some more inaccuracies.

A bigger problem with the map is that the uninitiated Vox reader might think that Arabic is the only or most important language spoken across these swathes of bright color.

Berbers in blue North Africa would beg to differ, as would Kurds in the greenish-yellow lands of North Mesopotamian Arabic, Armenians in Lebanon and several other religio-ethnic communities, among them Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews. And the Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk speak their own languages as the first vernacular, thank you very much.

The map’s cardinal sin, however, appears in the explanatory sidebar:

“Something to look at here: where the dialects do and do not line up with present-day political borders. In places where they don’t line up, you’re seeing national borders that are less likely to line up with actual communities, and in some cases more likely to create problems.”

In other words, Arabs are fighting other Arabs because of differences in dialect.

Sorry, Vox, this notion is cataclysmically wrong.

Leave aside the map’s implication that the conflict in Israel-Palestine is about the fact that Palestinian Arabs in the Galilee speak a different variety of their native tongue than the Judeo-Arabic speakers to their south.

Forget the idea that the Syrian civil war might be a clash of North Mesopotamian, Iraqi and Levantine dialects.

And don’t ask why civil strife continues to afflict central Iraq despite its uniform dark green dialectical hue.

Again, we’ll be charitable: Smart and patient Vox readers can refer to other maps in Fisher’s series and figure this stuff out for themselves.

But there are some other places where dialects do not line up with borders on the map and there is sometimes violent conflict.

One is the boundary between Morocco and Western Sahara. Nowhere in the “40 Maps” is there any clue as to the roots of this conflict in Spanish colonialism, the expansiveness of Moroccan territorial claims, the 1975 Green March, Sahrawi nationalism, the Moroccan Arab-Berber settlement of Western Sahara in violation of UN resolutions, the UN’s failure to enforce those resolutions, and French and US coddling of their client state in Rabat. Iron-deficient Vox readers are left to surmise that the conflict is about types of Arabic.

As for the two Sudans, indeed, the border between the state controlled by Khartoum and South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, roughly corresponds to the boundary line indicating where different sorts of Arabic are spoken.

But to suggest that the long civil war between north and south, or the decision of South Sudanese to secede, has to do with dialectical distinctions is to enter the realm of the ridiculous.

South Sudanese developed their Juba Arabic creole to cope with their northern rulers and do business with the northern merchants who set up shop in southern cities. Differences in dialect were a byproduct of conquest and conflict — not the cause thereof.

Again, we could go on. But why?

The kicker, as Stone says, is the map’s assumption of an “inverse relationship between linguistic unity and ‘problems.

Have the authors of the map not heard of India, where we are not only talking about a vast number of dialects, but actually different languages? What about Switzerland?”

In the end, this map reinforces the old Orientalist saws that Middle East conflict is understandable chiefly in terms of ethnic identity and that primordial ties are uniquely constitutive of politics (and certainly not the other way around).

If we can muster the energy, we may scrutinize a few more of the “40 Maps,” cursory inspection of which reveals more amazing feats of interpretive malpractice. Probably not, though — we should stay focused on our own efforts to go behind the headlines.

We do, however, have a question for Vox:

What good is “explainer journalism” if one fortieth of one piece requires 1,068 words of third-party explanation to correct just a few of its errors, without yet rendering it legible? (We’re not counting the words spent explaining explainers, or our editorializing here, just the “spinach” about the map itself.)

Please explain.

Note: Why Vox do not hire learned local people to do the investigations in the countries they want to explain?


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adonis49

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