Lazy Linking, 207th in an Occasional Series

Stuff I liked lately on the Internets:

207.1 Mercator maps grossly overstate the size of Canada/Greenland/Europe/Russia bit.ly/2QOf7vk @neilrkaye

207.2 At a time when black folks were harassed, cheated, or worse at retail stores, the Sears mail order catalog leveled the playing field bit.ly/2NK2sHM @louishyman

207.3 Must-read for all guys: women say what they'd do if all men had a 9pm curfew bit.ly/2NJkB8t @daniellemuscato

207.4 Thought-provoking thread on whether making players run suicides is good coaching bit.ly/2Or4HFl @bballbreakdown

207.5 Mark this inflection point for elite colleges beset by opposition over affirmative action, soaring tuition, and impossible expectations bit.ly/2PxvkEZ @theatlantic


End of an Era

My first mall growing up was Vallco Fashion Park in nearby Cupertino.  And my first job ever was in the catalog department of the Sears Roebuck in that mall.  So it was crazy to follow the news of Vallco's demolition and Sears' bankruptcy all in the same week.

I'm not that that old.  But clocking in at that Sears was a generation ago, as were my glory days of ice skating and people watching at that mall. 

Things come and go.  Nostalgia is a bittersweet emotion.  It will be interesting to see what is now that in the future we'll be remembering fondly in the past tense. 


No More

Whether it is investigations into child abuse by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania and New Jersey or Bishop Ellis groping Ariana Grande at Aretha Franklin's funeral, the issue of sexual sin in the church is rightfully being folded into the ongoing #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.  Indeed, far from it being shocking that, yes, these things can happen in seemingly safe and moral settings and at the hands of seemingly safe and respectable leaders, overcoming sexual abuse in a church setting requires even more attention, because it is so prevalent and because it is so damaging.  

What has been wonderful to me about the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements is that we are increasingly deciding - although we still have a long way to go - that it is no longer acceptable to allow these abuses to be covered up or explained away, and that any consideration of negative blowback on the perpetrators is ultimately outweighed by the overwhelming importance of validating, vindicating, and restoring the victims.  


E Pluribus Unum

I believe in moral absolutes, and was taught right from wrong.  And I did well in school, so I have experience processing disparate information and arriving at a right answer.

But there were three other formative experiences in my life that have helped me to understand the existence of multiple perspectives on the same issue.  First, I did team debate in high school, where we learned to build a case on the affirmative and negative sides of the same issue.  Second, many of the classes I took in college debunked the somewhat sanitized version of history that you invariably learn in high school.  Third, I went to a public policy grad school that prided itself on the notion that "where you stand depends on where you sit."


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Here are a few excerpts from a book I recently read, "A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes," by Adam Rutherford.
The study of ancient humans was once limited to old teeth and bones and the ghostly traces of their lives left in dirt, but we can now piece together the genetic information of truly ancient humans, of Neanderthals and other extinct members of our extended family, and these people are revealing a new route to where we are today. We can pluck out their DNA to tell us things that could not be known in any other way—we can, for example, know how a Neanderthal person experienced smell. 

Retrieved after epochs, DNA has profoundly revised our evolutionary story. The past may be a foreign country, but the maps were inside us the whole time.


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Here are a few excerpts from a book I recently read, "Women & Power: A Manifesto," by Mary Beard.

I wanted to work out how I would explain to her – as much as to myself, as well as to the millions of other women who still share some of the same frustrations – just how deeply embedded in Western culture are the mechanisms that silence women, that refuse to take them seriously, and that sever them (sometimes quite literally, as we shall see) from the centres of power. This is one place where the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans can help to throw light on our own. When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice.


The Log in Our Own Eyes

A friend of mine, who is no fan of Trump as a person but does support many of his policies, told me of an event in town earlier this year that purported to offer a safe space for a multiplicity of perspectives in the midst of so much divisiveness and tribalism in this country.  Eager to engage with people to the left and to the right of him, he was sorely disappointed when the overwhelming majority of the people in attendance and on the dais were extremely left-wing.  "It wasn't so much that I disagreed with what was being said," my friend relayed to me, "but that both the remarks and the audience reaction to those remarks didn't seem to offer any room for dissent, that I would be booed or worse if I dared offer an alternative viewpoint."  And of course reverse everything from this scenario, and there are abundant examples of left-leaning people feeling unwelcome or worse in largely right-leaning gatherings.

Inclusion of a multiplicity of opinions is all the buzz nowadays, in politics and in the church and in society.  Thought leaders of all stripes lament the polarized climate we are in, as well as the self-reinforcing behavior we engage in that only widens the gap, which is that we increasingly cloister ourselves from dissenting opinions. To be sure, it is helpful to have safe spaces to believe what we believe without judgment, and sometimes the comfort of our own tribe is needed to have such a place.  But if we truly believe in learning from let alone allowing different viewpoints, then we have to truly be welcoming of those viewpoints rather than shouting them down.