Weekend Reading: Publishing, Conspiracies, Tech Behaving Badly, MLMs

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. How Capitalism Changed American Literature (PublicBooks.org)

Both essays tell partial truths. By missing corporate conglomeration, they miss the whole. The two paths paved by the period—which subsume and reorient realism or avant-garde, MFA or NYC—were nonprofit or commercial. Two different ways of structuring publishers’ finances created a split within literature, yielding two distinct modes of American writing.

2. Why Is It So Hard to Reach the Christian Conspiracy Theorist? (David French)

And so I feel I should change my response to the question that launched this piece. When you fear for the mind and heart of your conspiracy-committed mother or uncle or son, don’t wait. Engage. But don’t engage immediately with argument, but instead with the fellowship and love that makes the heart want to turn towards truth. You become the person who loves them, accepts them, and helps provide that vital sense of virtuous purpose. 

The conspiracy theory is often the symptom of an underlying disease—a disease of hate or fear that robs a person of joy. The fierce anger and furious purpose of the conspiracy mindset is a hollow replacement for the peace and faith found not just in truth, but in truth communicated by a loving and empathetic family and friends. 

3. Clubhouse is Suggesting Users Invite Their Drug Dealers and Therapists (Medium)

Granting an app access to your contacts is ethically dicey, even if it’s an app you trust. If you’re like most people, the contacts in your phone include not just your real-life friends, but also old acquaintances, business associates, doctors, bosses, and people you once went on a bad date with. For journalists, they might also include confidential sources (although careful journalists will avoid this). When you upload those numbers, not only are you telling the app developer that you’re connected to those people, but you’re also telling it that those people are connected to you — which they might or might not have wanted the app to know. For example, say you have an ex or even a harasser you’ve tried to block from your life, but they still have your number in their phone; if they upload their contacts, Clubhouse will know you’re connected to them and make recommendations on that basis.

4. 12 Ways that MLMs Impact Society (MLMtruth.org)

Multilevel marketing is often ridiculed for its exaggerated promises of income freedom. People often gasp at some of the, admittedly rare, cases where individuals have lost 100s of thousands of dollars, relative to the others that have invested in the scheme. For nearly a decade, writers like the Finance Guy, Sequence Inc, Talented Ladies Club and Ethan Vanderbuilt have offered an incredibly thorough analysis of the financial consequences of becoming a distributor in nearly every major direct selling company.

Today we want to highlight those costs that aren’t captured in this financial analysis. This list is neither exhaustive or ordered in any particular manner.

This is a looonnng read. It is stitched together in one large post to illustrate just how large of an impact these companies have, and how little understanding we all have of their true COST.

Weekend Reading: Seriously… deep fried water

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. Understand Your Horse’s Eyesight (Horse & Rider)

Full disclosure: I don’t think I’ve been on a horse since I was about twelve. I haven’t been near a horse since I was pregnant with Anselm. But it turns out that horse eyesight is super weird! Now you know!

2. Chef Invents Deep Fried Water (The Science Explorer)

#PeakAmerica right here.

3. The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months (The Guardian)

Peter went to work for his father’s company, yet the sea still beckoned, and whenever he could he went to Tasmania, where he kept his own fishing fleet. It was this that brought him to Tonga in the winter of 1966. On the way home he took a little detour and that’s when he saw it: a minuscule island in the azure sea, ‘Ata. The island had been inhabited once, until one dark day in 1863, when a slave ship appeared on the horizon and sailed off with the natives. Since then, ‘Ata had been deserted – cursed and forgotten.

But Peter noticed something odd. Peering through his binoculars, he saw burned patches on the green cliffs. “In the tropics it’s unusual for fires to start spontaneously,” he told us, a half century later. Then he saw a boy. Naked. Hair down to his shoulders. This wild creature leaped from the cliffside and plunged into the water. Suddenly more boys followed, screaming at the top of their lungs. It didn’t take long for the first boy to reach the boat. “My name is Stephen,” he cried in perfect English. “There are six of us and we reckon we’ve been here 15 months.”

4. These Photos Show Russian in an Entirely Different Light (Culture Trip)

On assignment from Tsar Nicholas II, the pioneer of color photography Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky spent almost a decade travelling across the Russian Empire. Using his ingenious method to create color pictures, the photographer documented the life of the country that ceased to exist in 1917.

In 1909 Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, who was already known for a color portrait he had done of Leo Tolstoy, was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II himself to carry out a groundbreaking photographic survey, which the photographer would later refer to as his life’s work.

Weekend Reading: Happy Birthday, Missed Diagnoses, Avocados, Scammer Linguistics

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. “Happy Birthday: is public domain, former owner Warner/Chapell to pay $14M (Ars Technica)

The settlement is a result of a lawsuit originally filed in 2013 by filmmaker Jennifer Nelson, who challenged the “Happy Birthday” copyright. “Happy Birthday” has the same melody as “Good Morning to You,” a children’s song dating to the 19th Century. But despite the song’s murky early history, music publisher Warner/Chappell has stuck to its story that the song was copyrighted in 1935, and a royalty had to be paid for any public use of it—until now.

2. The lost girls: ‘Chaotic and curious, women with ADHD all have missed red flags that haunt us’ (The Guardian)

On a good day, it’s like watching a train whizz past you while you’re trying to read the text on the side and make out faces in the windows. On a bad, a bird might land in front of you. Curious, you pull out your phone, Google the bird and get stuck in a “pigeons of the world” vortex. You discover cassowary eggs are bright green and in 2005, UK police found a leg of swan in the Queen’s Master of Music’s freezer. Two terrine recipes later, the train has long passed and night has fallen. Dazed, you sink under a dark cloud of self-loathing, lamenting another lost day. You don’t remember what kind of bird it was.

The default assumption about ADHD is that it’s what makes little boys disruptive. But it can also make little girls feel like they’ll never be good enough. Statistics have traditionally shown ADHD is more prevalent in males, but recent research suggests this could, in part, be due to misdiagnosis. Unsurprisingly, ADHD in women is hugely under-researched – females weren’t even adequately included in findings until the late 90s. And it wasn’t until 2002 that we got our own long-term study.

3. How to Grow Avocados (WikiHow)

Avocados — the smooth, creamy, nutrient-filled fruit that is essential to dishes like guacamole, can be grown from the pit that is leftover after eating the fruit. Though avocado trees grown from a pit can take quite some time to produce fruit of their own (sometimes as long as 7-15 years), growing an avocado tree is a fun, rewarding project that leaves you with a great-looking tree in the meantime.

4. The Life-Changing Linguistics of Nigerian Scam Emails (Jstor Daily)

It’s well-known that most of the emails are composed by nonnative speakers of English, as is clear from the many grammatical and punctuation mistakes, broken syntax, missing words, and malapropisms (“the will to personify the façade to its practical conclusion” for “pursue the charade”). With so many mistakes, how can this language really fool anyone? Often, victims know the message comes from a nonnative speaker, or they may be nonnative English speakers themselves and may not always recognize grammatical errors. These are the ludicrous linguistic warning signs that helpfully remove most people who are savvy enough to escape the trap and leave the much smaller percentage who stay to be intrigued, starry-eyed, by an implausible story.

Weekend Reading: this one’s just a mish-mash

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. The State of Jell-O Salad in America (HuffPo)

Wyman believes that part of the appeal of Jell-O salad is that it takes the curse off of eating vegetables. “I actually think Jell-O today might do well to advertise simple Jell-O salad recipes to young moms who are trying to get their kids to eat more veggies made with Sugar-Free Jell-O,” Wyman writes. “That’s what Michelle Obama would be talking about if she really wanted to make a dent in childhood obesity and get kids to eat all those veggies she’s growing at the White House.”

2. In a rural Wisconsin village, the doctor makes house calls — and sees some of the rarest diseases on Earth (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

He was 28 years old with a bad car, a growing family and $30,000 in unpaid student loans. The average salary for a family doctor in America was then around $80,000, enough to settle down and begin paying off his debt. 

But the people of La Farge wanted De Line — needed him. Their offer: $20,000.

That would have to cover DeLine’s annual salary, the salary of an assistant to answer the phones and handle billing, plus all the clinic equipment and expenses. “The clinic” itself was an empty, dilapidated building with orange carpeting on some of the walls and a couch that looked like it had been sitting in someone’s garage.

DeLine took the offer.

3. 27 Days in Tokyo Bay: What Happened on the Diamond Princess (Wired)

Arma had spent more than 25 years at sea. Just five months earlier, in these same waters, he had faced his most arduous trial yet, white-knuckling the Diamond‘s helm against Typhoon Faxai. He had held the bow straight into 100-mph winds, lest they catch the cruise liner’s massive flank and fling it around like a toy boat in a Jacuzzi. He accepted the sea’s hierarchy—“You can’t beat Mother Nature, but you can come to a compromise”—so all night he negotiated, gunning the engines and thrusters to keep the 115,875-ton behemoth in place, the nautical version of running on a treadmill. You didn’t hear about a Princess cruise ship slamming into a cargo vessel or capsizing last September, because he succeeded.

“We got through Faxai. We’ll get through this,” a staff captain told Arma upon hearing of the virus aboard the ship. Arma preferred Faxai. This new coronavirus wasn’t something he knew how to navigate.

4. The Last Days of Target (Canadian Business)

The magnitude of what was at stake began weighing on some of those senior officials. “I remember wanting to vomit,” recalls one participant. Nobody disagreed with the negative assessment—everyone was well aware of Target’s operational problems—but there was still a strong sense of optimism among the leaders, many of whom were U.S. expats. The mentality, according to one former employee, was, “If there’s any team in retail that can turn this thing around, it’s us.” The group was riding a wave of momentum, in fact. They had overcome seemingly endless hurdles and worked gruelling hours to get to this point, and they knew there were costs to delaying. The former employee says the meeting ultimately concerned much more than when to open the first few stores; it was about the entirety of Target’s Canadian launch. Postponement would mean pushing back even more store openings. Everyone else in attendance expressed confidence in sticking to the schedule, and by the time the meeting concluded, it was clear the doors would open as promised. “That was the biggest mistake we could have made,” says the former employee.

Weekend Reading: a friendly reminder that the internet is not real life

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. Orthographic Media (Robin Sloan)

Before electronic media, news was attenuated by the friction and delay of transmission and reproduction. When it arrived on your doorstep, a report of a far-off event had an “amplitude” that helped you judge whether or not it mattered to you and/or the world.

That’s not the case with social media, where even tiny, distant events are reproduced “at full size” on your screen. This has been true of electronic media for a long time—I’m thinking of all the local TV news broadcasts that have opened with the day’s grisliest murder—but/and there was, before social media, at least an argument that it was important to have good “news judgment” if you were responsible for putting events on screens, particularly at the highest levels.

2. Yep, I Did Change (Erick Erickson’s Confessions of a Political Junkie)

The good news is I’ve read the back of the Book. It is supposed to be this way and there is nothing you can do to stop it except to be on the winning team. To be on the winning team requires you to do something you very much do not want to do and that is to love your neighbor. I have read the passage and there are no caveats. If your neighbor is a Democrat or gay or Muslim or your childhood tormentor, scripture says you have to love them. It doesn’t say it will be easy.

Washington is not going to save you. Trump is not going to save the country. But Jesus will save you and I am, at this point in my life, way more interested in eternity than the temporary.

That does not mean I think you or I should surrender. That does not mean we should stay home. I’ll vote and I’ll encourage others to vote. But I’m not going to slip into despair and think the world is over if my side loses because Team Jesus does not lose.

3. Navigating Online Controversy In An Age Of Unrelenting, Exhausting, Ubiquitous Bullshit: The American Dirt Story (Singal-Minded)

There were certain problems with how American Dirt, the novel by Jeanine Cummins that is currently one of the hottest-selling titles on Amazon, and which was chosen by Oprah for her super-famous book club, was written and publicized.

But how severe were those problems? And which of them were actual, you know, problems, rather than the inevitable outrage-overgrowth that instantly sprouts, kudzulike, during any sort of online pileon, suffocating reasoned conversation?

If you read most journalistic coverage of this controversy, you will not be informed. If anything, you will end up more misinformed than you were when you started. And that’s a useful problem to explore given where journalism is right now. I haven’t read American Dirt, so I can’t speak directly to the plot. But the book itself isn’t actually the point I’m interested in: Rather, I want to talk about the nature of how this controversy — and seemingly every controversy, these days — is being covered by mainstream media outlets.

4. The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter (Vulture)

Many members of YA Book Twitter have become culture cops, monitoring their peers across multiple platforms for violations. The result is a jumble of dogpiling and dragging, subtweeting and screenshotting, vote-brigading and flagging wars, with accusations of white supremacy on one side and charges of thought-policing moral authoritarianism on the other.
Representatives of both factions say they’ve received threats or had to shut down their accounts owing to harassment, and all expressed fear of being targeted by influential community members — even when they were ostensibly on the same side. “If anyone found out I was talking to you,” Mimi told me, “I would be blackballed.”

Dramatic as that sounds, it’s worth noting that my attempts to report this piece were met with intense pushback. Sinyard politely declined my request for an interview in what seemed like a routine exchange, but then announced on Twitter that our interaction had “scared” her, leading to backlash from community members who insisted that the as-yet-unwritten story would endanger her life. Rumors quickly spread that I had threatened or harassed Sinyard; several influential authors instructed their followers not to speak to me; and one librarian and member of the Newbery Award committee tweeted at Vulture nearly a dozen times accusing them of enabling “a washed-up YA author” engaged in “a personalized crusade” against the entire publishing community (disclosure: while freelance culture writing makes up the bulk of my work, I published a pair of young adult novels in 2012 and 2014.) With one exception, all my sources insisted on anonymity, citing fear of professional damage and abuse.

Weekend Reading: All the colours of the past

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. Why We Should See The Middle Ages In All Its ‘Garish’ Colors (Forbes)

She told me over email that she draws heavily on material culture in both her teaching and her research. She continuously confronts a preconception about the past as monochrome or, at best, sepia-toned. Luckily, that’s a vision that’s easy enough to dispel.

One of her favorite images to teach with is the 15th-century Kilcoe Castle in Ireland, now home to the actor Jeremy Irons, restored using an authentic style of limewashing to seal the exterior from the water. And there it stands once again, now a majestic salmon-pink.

2. Clothes in Medieval England (Ancient History Encyclopedia)

Clothing was usually made from wool, although silk and brocade items might be saved for special occasions. Outer clothing made from goat or even camel hair kept the rich warm in winter. Fur was an obvious way to improve insulation and provide decorative trimmings, the most common were rabbit, lambskin, beaver, fox, otter, squirrel, ermine, and sable (the latter three became a standard background design in medieval heraldry such was their common use). More decoration was achieved by adding tassels, fringes, feathers, and embroidered designs, while more expensive additions included precious metal stitching and buttons, pearls, and cabochons of glass or semi-precious stones. The taste for colours was the brighter the better, with crimson, blue, yellow, green and purple being the most popular choices in all types of clothes.

3. The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture (The New Yorker)

In the nineteen-nineties, Brinkmann and his wife, Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, who is an art historian and an archeologist, began re-creating Greek and Roman sculptures in plaster, painted with an approximation of their original colors. Palettes were determined by identifying specks of remaining pigment, and by studying “shadows”—minute surface variations that betray the type of paint applied to the stone. The result of this effort was a touring exhibition called “Gods in Color.” Versions of the show, which was launched in 2003, have been seen by three million museumgoers in twenty-eight cities, including Istanbul and Athens.

The replicas often deliver a shock. A Trojan archer, from approximately 500 B.C., wears tight pants with a harlequin pattern that is as boldly colored as Missoni leggings. A lion that once stood guard over a tomb in Corinth, in the sixth century B.C., has an azurite mane and an ochre body, calling to mind Mayan or Aztec artifacts. There are also reconstructions of naked figures in bronze, which have a disarming fleshiness: copper lips and nipples, luxuriant black beards, wiry swirls of dark pubic hair. (Classical bronze figures were often blinged out with gemstones for the eyes and with contrasting metals that highlighted anatomical details or dripping wounds.) Throughout the exhibition, the colored replicas are juxtaposed with white plaster casts of marble pieces—fakes that look like what we think of as the real thing.

4. America in Color (Smithsonian/YouTube). No excerpt to publish here since these are films — but they are super neat.

America in Color – 1920

America in Color – 1930

America in Color – 1940

America in Color – 1950

America in Color – 1960

How Colorized Historical Footage is Painstakingly Made

Weekend Reading: Fight the ship

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

Only one article this week instead of the usual list — partly because it is a very long read, but also because this is a Pulitzer-prize-winning piece of reporting that, I think, deserves to stand on its own. Writers T. Christian Miller, Megan Rose and Robert Faturechi report on the June 2017 collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a cargo ship three times its size in the South China Sea. It’s gripping stuff.

Part 1. Fight the Ship: Death and valor on a warship doomed by its own Navy (ProPublica)

Underneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, 12 miles off the coast of Japan, the tidy world of Berthing 2 had come undone. Cramped bunk beds that sailors called coffin racks tilted at crazy angles. Beige metal footlockers bobbed through the water. Shoes, clothes, mattresses, even an exercise bicycle careered in the murk, blocking the narrow passageways of the sleeping compartment.

In the dim light of emergency lanterns, Vaughan glimpsed men leaping from their beds. Others fought through the flotsam to reach the exit ladder next to Vaughan’s bunk on the port side of the ship. Tens of thousands of gallons of seawater were flooding into the compartment from a gash that had ripped through the Fitzgerald’s steel hull like it was wrapping paper.

As a petty officer first class, these were his sailors, and in those first foggy seconds Vaughan realized they were in danger of drowning.

Part 2. Years of Warning, then Death and Disaster: How the Navy failed its sailors (ProPublica)

In the early 2000s, the Navy embarked on a quest for so-called efficiencies. Vern Clark, the Navy’s top military officer during much of the Bush era, brought an MBA to the job and pitched his cuts to the force using the jargon of corporate downsizing. Smaller crews were “optimal” crews. Relying on new technologies to do the work sailors once did was described as “capital-for-labor substitutions.”

The efficiencies even included eliminating a requirement for ship captains to post lookouts on both sides of ships, a cut that would later prove crucial when the Fitzgerald’s crew failed to see a fast-closing cargo ship until it was too late.

In an interview with ProPublica, Clark said these reforms were intended as experiments for a more streamlined and ready Navy and should have been regularly re-assessed.

“Only a nitwit of the highest order would continue down this path without seeing if it’s working,” he said.

Weekend reading: coffee, bees, blogs, faith

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

The flowers are from my garden and don’t have anything to do with the articles this week. But aren’t they nice?

1. How the world’s first webcam made a coffee pot famous (BBC)

“It didn’t vary very much,” explains Dr Stafford-Fraser. “It was either an empty coffee pot, or a full one, or in more exciting moments, maybe a half-full coffee pot and then you’d have to try and guess if it was going up or down.”

Word got out, and before long millions of tech enthusiasts from around the world were accessing images of the Trojan room coffee pot.

Dr Stafford-Fraser remembers receiving emails from Japan asking if a light could be left on overnight so that the pot could be seen in different time zones.

2. You’re Worrying About the Wrong Bees (Wired)

Honey bees will be fine. They are a globally distributed, domesticated animal. Apis mellifera will not go extinct, and the species is not remotely threatened with extinction.

The bees you should be concerned about are the 3,999 other bee species living in North America, most of which are solitary, stingless, ground-nesting bees you’ve never heard of.

3. Back to the Blog (DanCohen.org)

It is psychological gravity, not technical inertia, however, that is the greater force against the open web. Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that “others are here”—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site. Facebook has a whole team of Ph.D.s in social psychology finding ways to increase that feeling of ambient humanity and thus increase your usage of their service.

When I left Facebook eight years ago, it showed me five photos of my friends, some with their newborn babies, and asked if I was really sure. It is unclear to me if the re-decentralizers are willing to be, or even should be, as ruthless as this. It’s easier to work on interoperable technology than social psychology, and yet it is on the latter battlefield that the war for the open web will likely be won or lost.

4. Composer Steve Reich on turning 80, writing live music, and finding faith (The Globe and Mail)

Oh that’s very, very valid. I was brought up a secular, Reform Jew, which means I didn’t know Aleph from Bet. I knew nothing, and therefore I cared nothing. My father cared culturally, but that’s all. So when I came home from Africa, I thought to myself, there’s this incredible oral tradition in Ghana, passed on from father to son, mother to daughter, for thousands of years. Don’t I have something like that? I’m a member of the oldest group of human beings still known as a group that managed to cohere enough to survive – and I know nothing about it. So I started studying at Lincoln Square Synagogue in midtown Manhattan, an Orthodox temple, that had an incredible adult-education program for the likes of me – and I asked whether they would teach a course in biblical Hebrew, and they said sure, and they brought a professor down from Yeshiva University to teach that, and I studied the weekly portion – I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a weekly portion and commentaries thereon.

So this whole world opened up for me – it was 1975, at about the same time as I met my wife, Beryl, and so all of this sort of came together and it did occur to me – isn’t it curious that I had to go to Ghana to go back to my own traditions because I think if you understand any historical group, or any other religion for that matter, in any detail, then you’ll be able to approach another one with more understanding. So the answer to your question is yes. The longest yes you’ve ever heard.

Weekend Reading: Couches, Flour, Attention Muggers

Weekend Reading is a collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. It Came from the ’70s: The Story of Your Grandma’s Weird Couch (Collector’s Weekly)

But there’s so much more going on with these sofas than the country-home themes, the shabby barns, red and brown leaves, mantel clocks, or horses on the prints. While Kueber and I weren’t able to nail down an exact year or a maker, she was able to help me put the Grandma Couch into context.

“This couch is a hat tip to Early American or Colonial Revival décor, which was massively popular through most of the 20th century—married to an indestructible, essentially plastic Space Age fabric, which our grandparents would have found appealing because our grandparents didn’t tend to redecorate constantly,” Kueber explains. “They had one sofa. They bought their furniture on a layaway, and by the time they found enough money for a sofa, they wanted it to last forever. So the good news was that fabric was going to last forever—but the bad news was that fabric was going to last forever.”

2. Inside the Flour Company Supplying America’s Sudden Baking Obsession (Medium)

Within hours, a simple truth became clear. Flour was flying off grocery-store shelves, propelled by a sudden and seemingly insatiable demand that was carrying into King Arthur’s much smaller online business, too. It was as if half of America had decided all at once that they needed to bake. A lot.

At first, it seemed like a complete mystery. It’s not that Colberg and others at the company were unaware that outbreaks of a nasty new virus had struck China and Italy, and that concerns were rising about flare-ups in the U.S. But in the sleepy New England village of Norwich, the disease felt a million miles away. No one was thinking about lockdowns.

Of course, the lockdowns were already starting in New York, and other parts of the country were just days away from following. And tens of millions of people were looking to stock up on whatever sorts of items might become essential if they were trapped in their homes for weeks or even months. Toilet paper was high on the list, as was hand sanitizer. And in a twist that almost no one saw coming, baking supplies were a high priority, too. Cakes, cookies, and most of all, fresh-baked bread would serve as balms for the anxiety, boredom, and alienation sure to follow on the pandemic’s heels. In a sense, baking was the first treatment to emerge for the coronavirus.

3. Not So Much (Snakes and Ladders)

Human beings have overwhelmingly powerful cravings for novelty and unanimity. We want new problems to face, because we’re tired of the old ones: they bore us, and remind us of our failures to solve them. And, especially in times of stress, we crave environments in which dissent is silenced and even mere difference is erased. We call that “solidarity,” but it‘s more like an instinctual bullying. You must attend to the thing I am attending to. I despise both of those tendencies. They’ve turned everyone into attention muggers.

If three months ago you were primarily focused on addressing sexism in the workplace, it seems to me that you ought to be allowed, indeed encouraged, to keep thinking about and working on that now, when everyone else is talking about police brutality. If your passionate concern is the lack of health care in poor communities, here or abroad, I think you should feel free to stick with that, even if it means not joining in protests against police racism. If you’ve turned your farm into a shelter for abused or neglected animals, and caring for them doesn’t leave you time to get on social media with today’s approved hashtags, bless you. You’re doing the Lord’s work.

Weekend Reading: good writing, bad reading, and a hermit

Weekend Reading is a weekly collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. Where writers write when they can’t write where they like to write (Nieman Storyboard)

Pearson finished all of the writing on his book before the pandemic hit. Now he’s working on edits, and trying to get future freelance assignments lined up. He does that from his kitchen table, often while watching his 3-year-old and 8-month-old. His wife, an attorney, also is working from home now.

They both work whenever they can. Their older child still spends three hours in her room for quiet time during the day, and if they can get the baby to take a nap during that time, well, that’s golden.

2.  At a Loss for Words: How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers (APM Reports)

Woodworth had stumbled on to American education’s own little secret about reading: Elementary schools across the country are teaching children to be poor readers — and educators may not even know it.

For decades, reading instruction in American schools has been rooted in a flawed theory about how reading works, a theory that was debunked decades ago by cognitive scientists, yet remains deeply embedded in teaching practices and curriculum materials. As a result, the strategies that struggling readers use to get by — memorizing words, using context to guess words, skipping words they don’t know — are the strategies that many beginning readers are taught in school. This makes it harder for many kids to learn how to read, and children who don’t get off to a good start in reading find it difficult to ever master the process.

3. Into the woods: how one man survived alone in the wilderness for 27 years (The Guardian)

His final gesture, leaving his keys in the car, was particularly strange. Knight was raised with a keen appreciation of the value of money, and the car was the most expensive item he had ever purchased. Why not hold on to the keys as a safety net? What if he didn’t like camping out?

“The car was of no use to me. It had just about zero gas and I was miles and miles from any gas station,” he said. As far as anyone knows, the car is still there, half-swallowed by the forest. Knight said that he didn’t really know why he left. He had given the question plenty of thought but had never arrived at a specific answer. “It’s a mystery,” he declared.