Gawande was recently featured on Metafilter in a commencement address that deals with teamwork in medicine.
You'd be surprised if a successful singer or sportsman had no coach. Why not so for other professionals? Surgeon investigates: "I can’t say that every surgeon needs a coach to do his or her best work, but I’ve discovered that I do"
Art critic recalls first trip to Rome, in 1959. Charming, evocative piece of travel writing: "In Rome, for the first time in my life, I felt surrounded by speaking water. What trees are to Paris, fountains are to Rome"
In the comment thread on Metafilter, there was a terrific technical description of the process of ticket printing.
Extraordinary account of how MIT statistician cracked the code behind lottery scratch tickets. Achieved 90% win rate. "The visible numbers turned out to reveal essential information about the digits hidden under the latex coating"
Remarkably powerful, harrowing piece of writing on a topic -- male rape -- that is largely ignored by UN, governments and aid agencies. "Of all the secrets of war, there is one that is so well kept that it exists mostly as a rumour"
"Mustachioed, pipe-smoking and blessed with an ability to wreak havoc within his own organisation, Bachmann’s resemblance to Inspector Clouseau was striking. He reduced the Swiss intelligence agency to a state bordering on chaos"
Lovely piece by literary agent who represented both men. Iconoclastic thinkers who overlapped as writers. But they had very different ways of opting out of society. As was clear when they met. (And Kesey never saw film of OFOTCN)
This article is from August, and here is a roundup of news links from around the same time.
Extraordinary report by German journalist of secret travels in Syria and meetings with protest leaders. Even hospitals aren't safe for dissidents: “You come in with a bullet in your leg. And you come out with a bullet in your head"
Another article from Discover talking about the 'wonderland' of bacteria in your navel, including this comment about the current state of microbiology.
Exceptional article on the teeming ecosystem of microbes within our bodies from one of the masters of science writing. Reveals that "in your lifetime you will produce five elephants of microbes. You are basically a microbe factory"
A video linked earlier in the year about Chernobyl's radioactive wolves.
Gripping account of first month after Chernobyl's nuclear disaster. 25 years ago, uncertainty turned to anxiety and then panic as "virtually the whole of the radioactive end of Mendeleev's periodic table fell on Belarus"
Today America struggles with record numbers of long-term unemployed and a dwindling middle class. But this isn't a sudden effect of the financial crisis – it's the result of three decades of short-sighted economic policy. Here's why
Love him or hate him, there was another notable Gill article about Dubai from earlier in the year.
Gloriously hostile review of Paris restaurant, L'Ami Louis. On veal kidneys: "The heat had welded them together into a gray, suppurating renal brick. It could be the result of an accident involving rat babies in a nuclear reactor"
Outstanding analysis of Arab uprisings, looking ahead to what may follow. "Revolutions devour their children. The spoils go to the resolute, the patient, who know what they are pursuing and how to achieve it"
Epic story of Ken Bradshaw, elite surfer. How he surfed the largest wave in history - "it was like skiing down an avalanche chute in the mountains", then rejected sponsorship and media hype for a life in commercial shipping
Included in the MeFi thread, a recommendation for "the tastiest frog legs in North America."
"You got to remember – you're not petting that frog. You're not slapping that frog. You got to grab that frog." So begins a nighttime frogging expedition in Louisiana. And frog eyes are whiteish. "Don't grab anything with red eyes"
The 'Nym Wars were covered in detail in this excellent FPP.
Stunning, emotional blog post in defence of online anonymity. Long, but well thought-out and compelling in its conclusions. "Persistent pseudonyms aren't ways to hide who you are. They provide a way to be who you are"
The Myths of a Christian Europe, in Pandaemonium, by Kenan Malik (on Metafilter):
Breathtaking. Brilliant. Snyder asks history's most loaded question, and answers it with meticulous balance sheet. Stalin was first with ethnic killing campaigns; murdered more people than Hitler; but fewer than we used to think
Excellent essay. The liberal, democratic values we hold dear aren't so rooted in Christianity as we might think. So any weakening of Christianity in Europe won't erode those values. But crass alarmism about Islam might
Other You Are Not So Smart articles of note that have been highlighted on the Blue.
Superb essay on money, happiness. "No matter how you turn it, the science says once your basic needs are taken care of, money and other rewards don’t make you happier." If you think differently, you're deluding yourself. Here's why
After practicing confidently with his iPod in private, novice conductor discovers the terror, joy and challenges of directing a professional orchestra. Conclusion: "Professionals and amateurs just don’t belong on the same stage"
Man who oversees CERN research laboratories talks candidly on the Higgs Boson particle, the relationship between science and belief, the nature of scientific proof and whether human brains are equipped to comprehend the universe
Nobel prize-winning economist, on inequality in America. Concentration of power and wealth in top 1% now so great that it may be irreversible. In effect, the rich have captured the government. They can buy the policies they want
KathrynT speaks of the benefits of honest medical counsel.
"What’s unusual is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little. For all the time they spend fending off the deaths of others, they tend to be fairly serene when faced with death themselves"
A similar GQ article from 2007, linked within the MeFi thread.
Epic tale of three boys found in a dinghy in the middle of the Pacific. "They had no food, no water, no clothing, no fishing gear, no life vests, and no first-aid kit. They were close to death. They had been missing for 51 days"
"The era when the United States could create and lead a political, economic and security order in virtually every part of the world is coming to an end. Which raises the obvious question: What should we do about it?" Excellent essay
The four American companies that have come to define 21st century information technology and entertainment are on the verge of war. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will fight it out across many markets. The rest are dust
Of couse, the Hitchens obit. thread.
Advancing cancer attacks his vocal cords. "My voice suddenly rose to a piping squeak. It began to register all over the place, from a gruff and husky whisper to a papery, plaintive bleat. Now it threatens daily to disappear"
Cautionary tale of modern parenting: "I’d bought into the self-esteem dogma — the idea that bathing our children in good feeling and positive reinforcement arms them with the confidence they need to lead better lives." A mistake
The 9/11 decade is now over. It was supposed to bequeath Americans a stronger nation, not a busted one. Civic virtue, bi-partisanship. A finer legacy than Gitmo and the Patriot Act. But it was hijacked, ideologically, commercially
A comment from the FPP, with links to two other interesting articles about atheism.
Outstanding [article] on evolution of atheism and complexity of religious belief. Rationalists should realise modern believers "may not accept the idea of God as an actually existing entity, so arguments for atheism will not disturb them"
The link to the original article appears to be down at the moment. 3Quarksdaily has an abstract, however.
Not so brief actually but outstanding on globalisation and the end of the corporation. We are entering an era of Coesian growth which "is fundamentally not measured in aggregate terms at all. It is measured in individual terms"
"Chinese medical authorities admit the lion’s share of transplant organs originate with executions, but no mainland doctors, even in exile, will normally speak of performing such surgery." Now one has. Prepare for a shocking story
Merchant marine's waistline increases 5 inches in 6 weeks; visits doctor, who rules out liver disease and hepatitis. Marine then confesses “I think there is a life in my abdomen. This may be a pregnancy". Welcome to couvade syndrome
Unmissable story of a most bizarre film project. A cast of thousands. Many living full-time in a nightmare vision of 1950s Moscow. A totalitarian society, under the control of a deranged director. Where the cameras are always on
Acclaimed Peruvian economist with helpful backgrounder on financial crisis. Confused by all the recent analysis? No problem, this clear and detailed feature should help you grasp the underlying causes and evaluate continuing risks
A recent post about the state of South Africa.
Tremendously well-crafted, well-informed piece of writing, paying tribute to political skills and intelligence of former South African president. To focus on his (admirable) spirit of forgiveness is to underestimate the man hugely
New Yorker at its best—and that's setting the bar high. Profile of Don Colcord, small-town pharmacist in Colorado. Dispenses drugs and medical advice, fixes watches, knows customers by name, helps out poor, holds town together
Agentofselection tells their own octopus story.
What goes on in the mind of an octopus? "As we gazed into each other’s eyes, Athena encircled my arms with hers, latching on with first dozens, then hundreds of her sensitive, dexterous suckers. She changed colour beneath my touch"
10% of Americans over the age of six take antidepressants. What's going on here? The drug companies have captured the system. Through lobbying and marketing, they decide what constitutes a mental illness, and how to treat it
Gripping story of painstaking, one-man plot to kill Hitler. The would-be assassin: An unassuming carpenter from southern Germany, whose skill, patience and determination were such that Hitler refused to believe he'd acted alone
"Religion has been brought low by its old enemies, philosophy and politics. Religion persists and is even popular. But it is now in the mind, a matter of personal belief projected outwards. In short, religion is now secular"
Ignore the off-putting title. Thoroughly entertaining story of journalist entering World Series of Poker. Sports writing at its best. Starts off with the immortal line: "I have a good poker face because I am half-dead inside"
A little back story, which one commenter recommends starting with first.
Epic tale of murky political intrigue in Guatemala and how one attorney, investigating controversial murder case, accurately predicted his own assassination. Long, powerful article with a plot straight out of a John Grisham novel
On Elizabeth Warren, scourge of the banking elite: “We cannot run our country without a strong middle class. We cannot run a democracy without a strong middle class. If we hollow out the middle class, the country we know is gone"
Black box recordings retell events aboard Air France Airbus that crashed in 2009 killing 228. Gripping, if worrying, read. Confused co-pilot flew into a severe thunderstorm, tried to climb above it, stalled the plane
Terrific denunciation of state of relations between over-mighty press and timorous politicians at Westminster. Much through the lens of the rise and fall of Rebekah Brooks, "one of the great adventuresses of her era"
Fascinating interview with economic anthropologist David Graeber. "The big question in the origins of money is how a sense of obligation – ‘I owe you one’ – turns into something that can be precisely quantified." Through violence?
An interesting post about being blind in America from earlier in the year.
The story of Daniel Kish and how he taught himself to "see" like a dolphin, using echolocation. "He can hear a building 1,000 feet away, a tree from 30 feet, a person from six feet." No colour but he can "see" round corners
"Huge roaring river of cash" has flowed out of Fed since 2008 crash, to prop up US financial system. Now Fed has been forced to open its books. Money has ended up in some odd hands. Those of Morgan Stanley's boss's wife, for example
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