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The most important thing I learned from a teacher

Who inspired you?

The role that teachers play in influencing the lives of their students is something that's been lost in current debates about education mandates and standardized testing. Teaching isn't just about making sure kids can pass exams. It's also about helping future adults find their gifts, discover their interests, and learn who they want to be. That's a hard thing to quantify. You can't really put together a concise list of "Children I've Inspired" for a CV. But this is the part of a teacher's job that is the most lasting. What we remember about good teachers isn't necessarily the dry facts they taught us, it's the doors they opened, the curiosity they kindled, and the moments where they made us rethink everything.

Science journalist Steve Silberman is married to one of America's hard-working teachers. Watching his husband, Keith, inspired Steve to collect stories of how teachers shaped the lives of a wide range of writers, thinkers, and scientists. In a post on Steve's blog, you'll find stories from people like award-winning journalist Deborah Blum, cultural critic Mark Dery, and molecular biologist Bonnie Bassler.

I'm honored to be a part of this line up, as well. Below is my contribution, dedicated to the grade school teacher who made me the person I am today.

I had the same teacher for 4th and 5th grades, Shirley Johannsen. She started teaching at State Street Elementary in Topeka, Kansas in 1963, so by the time I met her in the late 1980s, this woman was already educating the children of her first students. She taught both grades, simultaneously, in the same classroom. And there were more than 20 of us in each grade. Forty-plus students, one room, one well-loved Apple IIE, and Ms. Johannsen.

That sounds like a recipe for a failing school, but Shirley Johannsen was one of the best teachers I have ever had. There are two things this woman did that completely changed my life.

First, Ms. Johannsen made me a writer. It was in her classroom that I first made the connection between my obsessive love of reading, and the fact that I could write books, too. And she encouraged me to write, not just for school assignments, but for fun and for practice. She was the first person who told me that writing was something I was good at. She was my first editor.

Second, Ms. Johannsen made me love science. In my memories, it’s like I woke up one day, in her classroom, with a 9-volt battery and an electric switch in my hand. Before her, science was dinosaurs and trips to the museum with my parents. After, it was something to look forward to every school year—new discoveries, surprising knowledge, a better understanding of how the world around me worked.

Today, I’m a science journalist. I love my job. And I owe that to the teacher who saw my gifts and inspired my curiosity.

When Neil deGrasse Tyson met Carl Sagan

This is a seriously incredible story. If you did not already kind of love Carl Sagan, and think of him as a sort of benevolent hippie grandpa, you totally will now.

And the message here is seriously spot-on: The best way to honor the people who helped you realize your dreams is to help somebody else realize theirs.

Via Joanne Manaster

[Possibly fake] video of hunter-gatherer tribe's first contact with people from outside world


[UPDATE: A couple of Boing Boing readers have translated articles that say this encounter was staged. Read the comments below.]

[Video Link] This is a fascinating 15-minute video that shows a hunter-gatherer tribe in Papua New Guinea meeting with people from the outside world for the first time. They are very cautious, but also very curious, about the man on the other side of the river. They eventually cross the river to meet Jean-Pierre Dutilleux, the producer of Tribal Journeys: The Toulambi. When the men see Dutilleux's clothing, they then look at the clothes they are wearing, as if for the first time. When they stroke Dutilleux's hair, they then stroke their own hair.

It looks like all five parts of the documentary are on YouTube.

Richard Dawkins on vivisection: "But can they suffer?"

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The great moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarianism, famously said,'The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" Most people get the point, but they treat human pain as especially worrying because they vaguely think it sort of obvious that a species' ability to suffer must be positively correlated with its intellectual capacity. Plants cannot think, and you'd have to be pretty eccentric to believe they can suffer. Plausibly the same might be true of earthworms. But what about cows?

What about dogs? I find it almost impossible to believe that René Descartes, not known as a monster, carried his philosophical belief that only humans have minds to such a confident extreme that he would blithely spreadeagle a live mammal on a board and dissect it. You'd think that, in spite of his philosophical reasoning, he might have given the animal the benefit of the doubt. But he stood in a long tradition of vivisectionists including Galen and Vesalius, and he was followed by William Harvey and many others (See from which this picture is taken).

How could they bear to do it: tie a struggling, screaming mammal down with ropes and dissect its living heart, for example? Presumably they believed what came to be articulated by Descartes: that non-human animals have no soul and feel no pain.

Read the rest

Tsunami photos from Fukushima

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Last week, the Japanese utility company Tepco released photos taken of the March 11 tsunami as it struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Out of the two sets of shots, this photo, in particular, caught me cold. From this angle, the wave looks like such a small thing, doesn't it?

Also chilling: A series of shots taken as the tsunami flooded in and then receded from the power plant, sucking away a bunch of cars and leaving behind one totaled SUV. (Among other damage.)

NYT magazine on the hunt from Air France 447

The New York Times magazine has an amazing narrative story about the hunt for Air France 447, and how the crash has affected victims' families, air safety science, and French regulators. It's beautiful, haunting, and—by the end—damn near guaranteed to make you cry.

Alabama tornadoes: How you can help

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Over the weekend, I read several beautifully written, deeply moving essays about the deadly line of tornadoes that swept through Alabama last week. I wanted to share a few of those essays here, as well as let people know where you can donate to help the many, many people left homeless by this disaster.

First, my old Alabama buddy Kyle Whitmire wrote a piece for CNN called "When a Monster Came to Alabama".

There is no getting accustomed to natural disasters, but in Alabama tornado emergencies are seasonal part of life. I was in first grade the first time our teachers took us into the hall and taught us to line up against the walls and curl in the fetal position with our hands covering our necks. I can't remember how old I was when my mom made me climb into an empty bathtub, but I do remember her lugging a mattress into the bathroom to throw over me in case things got bad ...

You look for the "debris ball" that means a twister is on the ground. And when they get close, you hide in a windowless room, closet or hallway. If you're on the road, you're supposed to pull off and hide in a ditch, although I'm not sure many folks actually do. Then you wait. Maybe it kills you. Probably it doesn't. When it's over, you call your family to say you're safe and ask them if they're safe. And then you look around outside to see if it's all still there. The experience is terrifying, but it comes with the exhilaration Winston Churchill attributed to being shot at and missed. Of course, nature doesn't always miss.

The other essay comes from writer Brian Oliu. It's something he pieced together at the Tuscaloosa public library, not quite sure whether he'd have the Internet access to post it.

[Tuscaloosa] is where I have lived, worked, and wrote for the past six years, made art, made friends, made mistakes, always making. At some point, the town was called "Tuscalooska", but there was an executive decision at some point to drop the "K", perhaps it made the town sound too stammering, too unsure of itself. There are some old buildings in Alberta City that still had signs that had the "K" still in the name. Those buildings are gone now ...

Commonly, I hear "You live in Alabama? Why?" from folks up north. The effort that has been put forward during these past few days is why. Tuscaloosa has given me more than I can ever repay it for, and now that it needs my help, I am trying the best that I can. One of the jokes I heard a lot when I first moved to Alabama is "You're studying writing in Alabama? Do they even know how to write?" The short answer is yes: they do know how to write. They know how to do a lot of things. They know how to come together. They know how to love. They know how to rebuild.

But as they clean up and rebuild, the people of Alabama do need help. Thousands of people lost their homes. They need basic necessities. The organizations supporting them need money.

• If you'd like to donate supplies, check out this list of needed items. At the bottom of the list is an address to donate supplies by mail, and a list of places in Alabama where supplies can be dropped off.

• There's a long list of places you can donate money, ranging from the Red Cross and United Way, to the Alabama Governor's Relief Fund, religious charities, and Habitat for Humanity.

• If you're in the area and want to donate your time and labor, you can do that, too. Hands on Birmingham is a great organization that's coordinating volunteer efforts within that city. Serve Alabama is a government initiative that's registering volunteers for the whole state.

Image: Tami Chappell / Reuters

All the things left behind

On my walk around the neighborhood tonight, I found the following tornado debris: insulation, wood shrapnel, roof shingles, KFC receipt from Skyland Blvd in Tuscaloosa, a lease from 1996 for an apt at 800 20th street in Tusc., a tax return from a Schmon Ruffin, a receipt from Tuscaloosa Realty, pg 9 of 15 of "Exhibit B" with tank prices on it, and the Jesus bracelet. According to the KFC receipt they bought a pot pie, mac and cheese, and a 12 piece mix box. — My friend Eileen Kiernan, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Photos found after the Alabama tornadoes

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More than 100 individual tornadoes struck the Southeastern United States yesterday. More than 200 people were killed in Alabama alone.

I lived in Birmingham for two years, working for mental_floss magazine. I'm happy to report that all of my friends—including the mental_floss staff—are present and accounted for. But even for those who got by relatively unscathed, there's a lot of work to be done. The clean-up from this disaster is turning out to be remarkably disturbing. Many of my friends have reported finding strangers' belongings and pieces of demolished homes in their yards. In several cases, debris found in the Birmingham metro area appeared to have come from Tuscaloosa—some 60 miles away.

In the wake of that, someone's set up a new Facebook group where people are posting scans of photos and documents they've found post-tornado. Partly, it's meant to help reconnect keepsakes and belongings with their owners. And partly, it's a deeply moving memorial. There's little doubt that at least some of the people in these photos won't be able to come collect them.

My thoughts are with everyone down South tonight. I hope you, and the people you love, are safe.

(Thanks to Eileen Kiernan)

"Mute: the silence of dogs in cars," a photo series by Martin Usborne

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Photographer Martin Usborne has a wonderful project titled Mute: the silence of dogs in cars. Most of the images were taken at night. Above, a piece from the series titled "Peggy."

Usborne writes:

I was once left in a car at a young age.

I don't know when or where or for how long, possibly at the age of four, perhaps outside Tesco's, probably for fifteen minutes only. The details don't matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back. It seems trivial now but in a child's mind it is possible to be alone forever.

Around the same age I began to feel a deep affinity with animals - in particular their plight at the hands of humans. I remember watching TV and seeing footage of a dog being put in a plastic bag and being kicked. What appalled me most was that the dog could not speak back. Its muteness terrified me.

Read the rest of his story here, with more photos. You can purchase prints here. (thanks, Andrea James!)

Time lapse video of woman with HIV/AIDS

Just noticed this powerful advertisement from the Topsy Foundation. It was one of the winners at TED's "Ad's Worth Spreading" contest, which is generally worth checking out. This particular video does a great job (with a lovely twist at the end) at showing the effectiveness of HIV antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). There's also a followup video you can view that checks in on the woman (Selinah) as well as chatting with the folks behind the video. Although I realize that the ARVs have been made possible by the work done in the pharmaceutical industry, and that there is a chance that Topsy's programs are facilitated by kind donations from the same industry, it's still a pity that there isn't a more sustainable system for the provision of such drugs to developing countries. Pity that these sorts of medicines are usually priced way too high for individuals like Selinah, which is why so many go untreated and so many die. Pity also that laws like Bill C-393 (which aim to explore different ways to create that sustainable market and lower that price) are being deliberately stalled in government so as to guarantee not being passed. That kind of unfortunate reality deserves a megafacepalm.

Chimpanzee mother learns her infant has died (video)

Video Link:

This video contains excerpts of the reaction of the mother chimpanzee to the body of her deceased infant. The video was recorded at Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in Zambia. A full report of this event is in press in the American Journal of Primatology (DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20927). This report was a collaborative effort between the Max Planck Institute, Chimfunshi, and Gonzaga University.
(thanks, Tara McGinley)

What makes Mt. Merapi different from other volcanoes?

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This is what happens when your kitchen meets a nuée ardente.

Literally a "burning cloud", the name is French for pyroclastic flow—a mass of hot gas, ash and rock released in some volcanic eruptions. Basically, it's an avalanche that happens to be hot enough to sear flesh. The danger of these things is that they move fast—hundreds of miles per hour, in some cases—and that they hug the ground, burning and suffocating everything in their path. Almost all the big, famous eruptions—from Mt. Vesuvius to Mt. St. Helens—included pyroclastic flows. And so have the recent eruptions at Mt. Merapi in Indonesia.

In fact, these things happen so often at Mt. Merapi that the Mountain has become the namesake of a specific type of pyroclastic eruption, different from the ones that buried Pompeii and the Toutle River. You're probably most familiar with Pelean-type eruptions. Named after the volcano that flattened the Caribbean town of Saint-Pierre in 1902, these eruptions are often phenomenally destructive. Pressure builds up for decades under a dried lava "cork". When the lava dome collapses and the cork finally pops, the pyroclastic flows spill out—fast and furious.

Merapi, in contrast, erupts a lot more frequently—on the order of every 4 or 5 years. Between eruptions, it builds up a lava cork of its own. In this case, though, the cork isn't very well supported by the underlying structure of the mountain, so it collapses any time it gets a bit too big. Collapse triggers pyroclastic flows, but, because so little time has passed, there isn't nearly as much pressure behind them. At Mt. Merapi, pyroclastic flows happen more frequently, but they're considered to be less dangerous.

That doesn't mean they can't kill you, however. Most of the people in the way of these recent eruptions were evacuated ahead of time. But not all. As of yesterday, 153 people were reported dead. The Boston Globe's Big Picture blog has some truly devastating photos of the human toll. They are, in many cases, more explicit than you're used to seeing. But I think it's important to not get so caught up in the the zoomed-out, awe-inspiring perspective that we lose track of the impact these eruptions have had on individual people. The pyroclastic flow went through somebody's kitchen.

Image: Dwi Oblo / Reuters

(Thanks to Howard Koerth—Happy Mutant, raconteur, Dad—for bringing the Boston Globe photos to my attention.)

Baby animals: Boy, they sure are cute!

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Behold! A positive application of the old saying, "What is seen can never be unseen."

WARNING: The images in this gallery are dangerously, addictively cute. Once you have seen them, you will want to see more, and more. And more. And you may never finish what you were working on before you saw them. But it's probably too late for you anyway, because you've already seen the baby ocelot, so never mind.

Wired: Cutest Book Ever: Zooborns Internet Craze Moves to Print
Here there be baby otters and baby aardvark. You've been warned.

What's it like to be incarcerated in a US prison?

I could not stop reading this series of posts from a 99chan forum regular who returns after a 2 year prison sentence until I'd finished every last word. Terrifying, dehumanizing stuff. But is it real, or fiction? The "chans" aren't exactly where one goes for fact-checked documentaries. (via @mala)

Thanks for reading!

trans-march.jpgWhat a pleasure and a delight it's been to guestblog here! With the holidays and my job and everything, it went very quickly. I was unable to get to a number of topics I thought might be of interest, such as: controversy as a marketing tool, the anesthetic shamans of philosophy (Benjamin Paul Blood and William James), X-ray hair removal, the work of Dmitri K. Belyaev, the connection between transgenderism and transhumanism, some amazing trans historical figures, other trends on Facebook and Wikipedia, an interview with my Googlegängers, the history of the Chicago River... perhaps another time or another place. The hardest part for me was to let so many amazing insightful reader comments (both agreements and disagreements) pass unacknowledged. My thanks to each of you for taking the time to read and comment! A couple more things...

Image: Yours truly backstage at last year's Trans March.

Read the rest

Lou Jing, half black Chinese girl, sparks race debate in China

lou jing.pngA 20-year old Shanghai woman of mixed race has sparked a discussion about race in China. Lou Jing is half black; she was raised by a Chinese mother and speaks and acts like any other Chinese girl. But when the aspiring TV anchor entered an American Idol-like contest and rapped on-stage, she attracted both sensational admiration and ignorant hate. The presenters adoringly called her "chocolate girl" on stage — meanwhile, on web forums, people called her gross and ugly and criticized her mother for having sex with a black person out of wedlock. In an interview with NPR's All Things Considered, Lou Jing says: "I've always thought of myself as Shanghainese, but after the competition I started to have doubts about who I really am." Lou Jing has never met her dad, who left China without knowing he had gotten her mom pregnant. She hopes to study journalism at Columbia University.

Stories about Lou Jing on NPR, Time, Shanghai Daily Image via Shanghai Daily

Dogs welcome soldiers home


To commemorate Veterans Day, Mental Floss collected videos of very happy dogs greeting returning soldiers.

NASA to irradiate monkeys

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"NASA to Start Radiating Monkeys," noted Chris Baker (of Wired), "The kind of headline that should be followed by 'NASA to Fire PR Firm.'"

The experiments will bombard squirrel monkeys (like the lil guy above) with radioactivity to explore the possible effects of radiation in space on human astronauts. Warning: eventually, revenge will come. Oh, and then there's this possibility.

[Photo: "Here's Looking at You!" by ifijay, via Flickr, CC license here. ]

Canadian folk singer dies after coyote attack

taylor2.jpg Toronto-based folk singer Taylor Mitchell died after coyotes pounced on her during a solo hike in Cape Breton national park on Monday. She was hospitalized with injuries from multiple bites, and died in critical care yesterday. Ms. Mitchell was 19 years old. More: LAT, BBC. Artist pages: Facebook, and MySpace.

Do chimps grieve?

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Look at this photograph and just try to tell me the answer is no.

This incredible image was shot for National Geographic by Monica Szczupider, and shows chimpanzees at the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon. They're observing as the body of an elder troop member named Dorothy is taken to burial. She died at 40 years of age, which is pretty old for a chimpanzee.

The photo appears in the November issue of National Geographic Magazine, in the "Visions of Earth" section. [ Thanks, Marilyn Terrell ]

How to memorialize friends who have passed away on Facebook

facebook deceased.png Over on the Facebook blog, head of security Max Kelly has just explained what to do to memorialize the profile of someone who has passed away:
We understand how difficult it can be for people to be reminded of those who are no longer with them, which is why it's important when someone passes away that their friends or family contact Facebook to request that a profile be memorialized. ...When an account is memorialized, we also set privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. We try to protect the deceased's privacy by removing sensitive information such as contact information and status updates. Memorializing an account also prevents anyone from logging into it in the future, while still enabling friends and family to leave posts on the profile Wall in remembrance. If you have a friend or a family member whose profile should be memorialized, please contact us, so their memory can properly live on among their friends on Facebook.
Memories of friends departed endure on Facebook via CNet

Tumors Can Grow Faster Than You Think

Reuters reported last week that Natalie Morton, the teenage girl who died shortly after receiving an HPV vaccination, was definitely not killed by the vaccine. Instead, Morton was the victim of a large, fast-growing and previously undetected tumor in her chest cavity.

These kinds of tumors are very rare, and we don't know much about Morton's case. However, the Daily Mail has a heart-wrenching (and medically fascinating) interview with the parents of another teen who suffered a similar fate...

Inside George's chest cavity was an aggressive and rapidly growing tumour the size of a small football. In the few hours after George had gone to bed, the tumour had grown around his windpipe, cutting off his oxygen and causing irreparable damage to his brain. The tumour, which had started in an organ called the thymus gland in the chest cavity, was also crushing his heart and lungs and constricting the vital arteries supplying his body with blood.

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Link.

Thoughts for Polanski apologists, by another woman raped at 13.

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On "Getting Over It," by Lauren over at Feministe:

What does rape do to you? Afterward? It changed me; there is before and after. Before, a child, playing with Barbies, looking sideways at boys, wondering. After, confusion. Depression. A litany of fuck-ups and fuck-its, whatevers, mistakes, trusting no one, least of all myself. Before, sex was mysterious; after, miasma. I was tarred as a Lolita. I was called jail bait.

Rape is not the only assault. Around rape is a large segment of the population that questions the victim, a culture that looks down on victims for allowing themselves to be victimized, or keep them victimized, questions about the victim's credibility, questions about the legacy of rape and how bad it is, because how bad is rape really? Rape, because various levels and forms of sexual assault are systemic and pervasive across all societies, exists alongside one's experiences of unwanted touching, wanted touching, sexual objectification, sexual desire, sexual harassment, incest, love, leering eyes, cat calls, roaming hands, consent, confusion, tits, vagina, rectum, penis, mouth, rape and not-rape, all of it loaded, all of it veering at rape's ugly legacy, co-mingling, the legacy that tells us to be more careful, to dress more conservatively, to BE BETTER AT BEING VULNERABLE, or BE MORE POWERFUL, or BE MORE FEARFUL, or GET OVER IT ALREADY. Rape leaks into healthy, consensual experiences. It lingers. It pervades.

Related: This Smoking Gun archive contains the entire "1977 grand jury testimony of the 13-year-old California girl with whom the director had sex after plying her with Champagne and a Quaalude at the Los Angeles home of Jack Nicholson."

A rape is a rape by any other name.

See also: Polanski's Victim and Me, by the celebrated novelist Robert Goolrick, who is also a survivor of child rape.

Finally, Polanski in his own words in 1979, an unrepentant abuser:

"If I had killed somebody, it wouldn't have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But... f--ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f-- young girls. Juries want to f-- young girls. Everyone wants to f-- young girls!"

Typhoon, Floods in the Philippines: first-person BB report from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star

Philippines flooding, Sept. 2009 (for BB, from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star)

Photos, above and after the jump, shared with Boing Boing by Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star. Her first-person account from the ongoing disaster follows, and includes recommendations on how you can help the victims. She shot the photos in this post two days after the typhoon, on a relief drive in a town called Tumana. Link to Flickr set.

Typhoon Ondoy by Audrey Carpio

Typhoon Ondoy, aka Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped 40 cm of rain on the Philippines last Saturday before he/she left to wreak watery havoc upon Vietnam and Cambodia. But Manila and its surrounding environs are still in various states of calamity, with many parts of the city still submerged under dirty brown water and others, while drying out, caked in leptospirosis-inducing mud. The government and its presidentiables have been slow to act upon what could've been their Hurricane Katrina-hero moment but quick to seize upon relief efforts for electioneering. Instead, it is thanks to the generosity and ingenuity of the Filipino people who mobilized themselves through Twitter and Facebook that hundreds of thousands of victims have been fed, clothed and sheltered.

As early as Saturday evening, when people began to realize that floods have flashed rather quickly and videos of drowning trucks emerged on YouTube, relief plans grew almost organically on the networks. Tweets encouraging people to gather food, blankets, and clothing for donations were some of the earliest; by the next day there was an updatable and sharable Google spreadsheet on all the drop-off and volunteer centers; by Monday, almost all status updates and tweets had to do with emergency hotline numbers, relatives of friends who were stranded on a rooftop, and traffic advisories warning which roads were impassable. A Google map of people in need of rescuing was uploaded, although its usefulness is questionable, considering the general low-techness of the National Disaster Coordinating Council's rescue squads they only had 13 rubber boats with which to deploy to the affected barangays †or villages (to put it into perspective, 1.9 million people were inundated with flood water, nearly 380,000 have been evacuated into schools, churches and other emergency shelters, and 246 people have died.

Philippines flooding, Sept. 2009 (for BB, from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star)

Read the rest

The Lessons of Lindsay

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A powerful and beautiful photo-essay by Matt Mendelson about a powerful and beautiful young woman from my home town named Lindsay Ess, a fashion major at Virginia Commonwealth University. Same school, even the same building where I spent a lot of time as a kid, growing up -- so the story *really* felt familiar and personal to me, even though I do not know her, and cannot imagine what it feels like to endure what she's prevailed through.

The story begins at a student runway showing, where Linsday is looking on:

Lindsay, it should be noted, has no hands to clap and no feet on which to get up. She had them back in the summer of 2007, when she was tall and thin and had just graduated from VCU with a fashion merchandising degree. Then, to use her words, a blur. When she entered Henrico Doctors' Hospital that summer, the procedure to remove a small piece of inflamed intestine, a nagging complication of her Crohn's disease, was supposed to go routinely. But supposed to go routinely rarely turns out well, and there hasn't been a routine day in Lindsay's life ever since. Not since the leak, not since the sepsis, not since the organ failures, the brain seizures, and not since the coma. Definitely not the coma. Not since one day in August turned to October and then drifted on towards Christmas. Certainly not since the quadruple amputations, the cruel coda to having been so close to death all those months and then surviving. Oh, honey, you know what they're going to do, right? the nurse said. There's no routine to being bathed and fed and dressed like a child mere months after you've graduated college, and no routine to learning how to walk again at the age of twenty-five. No routine in continuing a long-distance relationship with someone who admits to having originally been smitten by your looks, or to being with your mother almost every waking hour. There's no routine for taking a fistful of pills a day--the Pentasa, the Entocort EC, the Lexapro, the Keppra, the Urosidol, the Spiranolactone, the Zolpidem, the Lyrica, not to mention the occasional shot of actual alcohol. There's no routine, no manual, for wishing you were whole again, so that just one morning of your life you could actually wake up and make it to the bathroom on your own, even if the arms and legs you now covet so are made of acrylic and not skin and bone and muscle. And, perhaps most of all, no routine for the long, slow realization that those acrylic arms and legs might not, in the end, be the answer to anything. If you're Lindsay Ess, routine pretty much stopped on August 3, 2007.
The Lessons of Lindsay (story) Sports Shooter Q & A: with Matt Mendelsohn (chat with the photographer).

(Sports Shooter, via @Glennf)

Boing Boing's September 11, 2001 archives.

Very early that morning, as the smoke was rising, Boing Boing re-blogged this eyewitness account by Teresa Nielsen Hayden:
I just climbed back down from my Brooklyn rooftop. An airplane has flown into the World Trade Towers. There's thick black smoke billowing out of several floors of both towers. Let me pause for a moment to say with all the lucidity I can muster that it is the strangest sight I have ever seen in my life.

I can hear the sirens of multiple emergency vehicles, 360 degrees around. There were people on other rooftops in my neighborhood, some of them talking on their cellphones. Down in the street below me a workman was shouting in some language other than English for the rest of his work crew to come out of the house they're renovating and see what's happening. I couldn't make out a word of it, but there was no mistaking the sense.

Patrick called from the office. He says from where I'm standing I can't see the big hole in the side of one tower.

And Cory wrote:
The Internet's major news sites have been shut down by a massive flood of traffic as everyone in the world calls and emails everyone else in the world to tell them the news. God, this feels so apocalyptic. Five people have just called me to tell me about this, and more -- all flights in the US have been grounded, the Pentagon's been hit, the flights were hijacked commercial airliners... Holy crap.
And Mark linked to this prescient piece by Dan Gillmor:
What happened on Tuesday was an act of war. The American government and military should and will respond in kind. If law enforcement and national security agencies declare war on the American people in the process, they will give the terrorists a gift. The despicable people who planned this will triumph if we add to the damage.
On 9/11, Boing Boing linked to this, from John Perry Barlow:
Control freaks will dine on this day for the rest of our lives. Within a few hours, we will see beginning the most vigorous efforts to end what remains of freedom in America. Those of who are willing to sacrifice a little - largely illusory - safety in order to maintain our faith in the original ideals of America will have to fight for those ideals just as vigorously.
Boing Boing: September 11, 2001.

9/11/2009

From a 2001 story in New York magazine written a couple of weeks after the attacks, by David Carr:

# Everyone who comes after will never understand.
Not a new brand of New York provincialism but a cold fact. This is the place where the world seemed to end in a single morning. That day, as it was experienced here, was not televised.

# The jumpers will always be with us.
Faced with the most horrible of all human choices, the kind of riddle that grade-school children use to torture each other, many leaped rather than burn. And as the debris falling from the top anthropomorphized into human beings, people watching understood that for the time being, we were all beyond help. "I don't remember faces, just bodies jumping out," says Alexandra Rethore, a second-year analyst at Lehman Brothers. "And the girl next to me was hysterical. She kept saying, 'They're catching them, right?' I said, 'Yeah, they're catching them. Let's go.' " It was a noble act, a message to loved ones: "I'm gone but not lost. I'm still here. Find me."

18 Truths About the New New York (New York, 10-2001)

Worth reading today:
A Fortress City That Didn't Come to Be (NYT, 09-2009)
What Would 9-11 Be Like in the Age of Social Media? (LA Weekly, 09-2009)

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Story about Wal-Mart founder's treatment of his employees

The American Prospect reviewed a couple of books about Wal-Mart, and included this charming anecdote about Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton
Around the time that the young Sam Walton opened his first stores, John Kennedy redeemed a presidential campaign promise by persuading Congress to extend the minimum wage to retail workers, who had until then not been covered by the law. Congress granted an exclusion, however, to small businesses with annual sales beneath $1 million -- a figure that in 1965 it lowered to $250,000.

Walton was furious. The mechanization of agriculture had finally reached the backwaters of the Ozark Plateau, where he was opening one store after another. The men and women who had formerly worked on small farms suddenly found themselves redundant, and he could scoop them up for a song, as little as 50 cents an hour. Now the goddamn federal government was telling him he had to pay his workers the $1.15 hourly minimum. Walton's response was to divide up his stores into individual companies whose revenues did not exceed the $250,000 threshold. Eventually, though, a federal court ruled that this was simply a scheme to avoid paying the minimum wage, and he was ordered to pay his workers the accumulated sums he owed them, plus a double-time penalty thrown in for good measure.

Wal-Mart cut the checks, but Walton also summoned the employees at a major cluster of his stores to a meeting. "I'll fire anyone who cashes the check," he told them.

The "values" of Wal-Mart, the largest private-sector employer in the U.S., are shaping our national economy -- and that's a very bad thing. (Via WashPost)