The reaper lives close to home

Life expectancy for a healthy American man of my age is about 90. (That’s not to be confused with American male life expectancy at birth, only about 78.) If I’m to achieve my statistical quota of 15 more years of life, that means about 15 times 365, or 5,475, more showers. But if I were so careless that my risk of slipping in the shower each time were as high as 1 in 1,000, I’d die or become crippled about five times before reaching my life expectancy. I have to reduce my risk of shower accidents to much, much less than 1 in 5,475.

This calculation illustrates the biggest single lesson that I’ve learned from 50 years of field work on the island of New Guinea: the importance of being attentive to hazards that carry a low risk each time but are encountered frequently. [link]

Teen Wolf

In adolescence, the brain is also buzzing with more dopamine activity than at any other time in the human life cycle, so everything an adolescent does—everything an adolescent feels—is just a little bit more intense.

The British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has a slightly different way of saying this: “Puberty,” he writes, “is everyone’s first experience of a sentient madness.” [link]

Hold the ham

Northeastern University School of Law professor Daniel Medwed said it is shocking that a federal case could get out of the grand jury, let alone go to trial, without the prosecutor speaking to the alleged victims.

“One of the jokes in New York is that they would indict a ham sandwich,” he said. “Well, here in Massachusetts, it seems a federal jury doesn’t even need the protein. It seems it would take only a couple of loaves of bread, given how flimsy and un-nutritious these cases were.” [link]

Say my name say my name


“Give your daughters difficult names,” Warsan Shire wrote. “Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right … Give your children difficult names, so the world may learn how to unfurl its tongue in the direction of our stolen languages.” [cite]

Words words words

But let’s get real: writing is not a “fucking great” job. It does not attract happy people, nor does it make its unhappy practitioners any less unhappy. God knows this is a well-documented phenomenon. Writers are very often miserable people: some thrive on unhappiness, others don’t. But few are immune from feelings of deep and avid dissatisfaction. We write because we are constantly discontented with almost everything, and need to use words to rearrange it, all of it, and set the record straight.  [link]

Mighty oaks from little eggcorns grow

“Eggcorn” is supposed to evoke “acorn.” Yagoda explains, “In 2003, linguist Geoffrey Pullum coined the term eggcorn to refer to common homophone or near-homophone mistakes in which the mistake makes a kind of sense. Eggcorn itself has a certain logic, for example, because acorns are roughly the shape of eggs.” [link]