Friday Assorted Links

1. What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles? A riveting story about growing up in East St. Louis. I didn’t know it is only 89 blocks. One aspect of the story I found particularly interesting, Miles never seemed to have any concern with whether his teams were competitive. Winning basketball almost seemed irrelevant to him.

2. This is Iron Sarah. The human spirit with excellent pictures.

3. Teens Are Being Bullied ‘Constantly’ on Instagram. Can we put the social media toothpaste back in the tube? Please?

4. We’re Teaching History Wrong.

5. Bohemian Rhapsody. Trailer hooked me, but Jeffrey Bloomer’s not a fan.

Palaces For The People

I’m two-thirds through Eric Klinenberg’s excellent book Palaces For The People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, And The Decline Of Civic Life. The book jacket explains what Klinenberg means by “social infrastructure” and why it matters:

“Klinenberg believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks in which crucial sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the ‘social infrastructure.’ When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves.”

Klinenberg makes a particularly strong case for public libraries. If I was Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or Jeff Bezos, that’s where I’d focus a significant portion of my philanthropy.

Where I’m at currently in the book, Klinenberg is drawing on Jeff Wiltse’s social history of municipal swimming pools in the United States which I may have to read next. Wiltse offers searing reminders of our longstanding struggles with racism. For example, he recounts the story of a Little League Baseball team in Youngstown, Ohio, that celebrated its city championship in 1951 at a beautiful municipal pool in South Side Park.

The team had one African American player, Al Bright, and lifeguards refused to let him past the perimeter fence while the other players swam. When several parents protested, the supervisor agreed to let Al ‘enter’ the pool for a few minutes, but only if everyone else got out and Al agreed to sit inside a rubber raft. While everyone watched, a lifeguard pushed Al around the pool shouting, ‘whatever you do, don’t touch the water!”

Wiltse adds:

“This was not an isolated incident, nor was it restricted to certain parts of the United States. Two years later, in 1953, the great African American film star Dorothy Dandridge dipped her toes in the swimming pool at the Last Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, which welcomed her as a performer but banned her, and all other blacks, from the water. The hotel responded by draining the entire pool.”

These mind-numbing historical anecdotes aside, Palaces For The People is a hopeful work.

In the United States, there are two fundamental problems with implementing the convincing road maps that Klinenberg and other social scientists outline for safer, healthier, more vibrant communities. Everyone’s ingrained individualism coupled with many people’s refusal to acknowledge that publicly funded government programs often make significant contributions to the common good.

 

 

Daniela Ryf’s Secret Weapon

No one can beat Daniela Ryf, Switzerland’s long distance triathlon queen.

Once again, many tried on Sunday in Kona, Hawaii. The race consists of three legs, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. Or for my metric friends—4k, 180k, 42k.

Ryf, winner of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions of the championship, was the indisputable favorite. Last year’s runner up, 25 year old Lucy Charles from Britain, was promising to hang with Ryf.

Never mind the 5-6 months of dedicated training for race day, a few minutes after dawn and minutes before the race start, Ryf was stung by jelly fish in both arms while warming up near Kailua Pier. Which brings to mind Mike Tyson’s quote, “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the mouth.” Ryf had a plan until stung in both arms.

In considerable pain, Ryf decided to try swimming. An athletic marvel, in the following interview, at the 2+ minute mark, Ryf reveals her true secret power—extreme mental toughness. “Maybe in five hours,” she says, “I’ll be feeling fine.” Most of us are doing well when we walk for 30 minutes, run for 45, swim for 60, or cycle for 90. Imagine thinking, “Maybe in five hours I’ll be fine.”

Although a few male pros were hospitalized after being stung pre-race, Ryf knew there was a chance the pain would dissipate. Her mental toughness coupled with her confidence in her training was more than enough.

Long story short, she finished the swim 9 minutes behind Charles, which many thought was an insurmountable gap. Four hours later, and five into the race, she passed Charles near the end of the bike and crossed the finish line 10 minutes ahead of her in a course record 8:26:16, 20 minutes faster than her 2016 course record.

Like Ryf, when we’re in pain—whether physical, mental, or emotional, how can we envision a brighter future? How can we learn to think that “Maybe in five days, weeks, months, or years, we’ll be fine?”

How To Tilt An Election

Get Taylor Swift’s endorsement. Or follow Alison Byrnes’s lead and get on a bus.

Or write a funny, substantive, and convincing story about one voter’s decision making in the broader context of the state of Montana.

Sometimes I come across writers who I immediately want to know and count among my friends. Like Sarah Vowell.

Check out her story of her Republican dad deciding to vote for a Democrat.

Did Hell Freeze Over? My Republican Dad is Voting for a Democrat

Fav phrase:

“. . . those hippies in Missoula will occasionally waste an entire afternoon outdoors without killing any food.”

Thursday Assorted Links

1. The New York Times Bombshell That Bombed.

“And what the NYT can still do to find an audience for its Trump tax story.”

This blows. I was hoping he’d have been fined $400-500m dollars and impeached by now. Maybe some jail time for good measure.

2. Can’t help but wonder if the bombshell bombed because people have been distracted by what Tay is up to. I got you. Taylor Swift Succumbs to Competitive Wokeness. Wokeness a future Olympic event? How might one begin training?

3. We Slow as We Age, but May Not Need to Slow Too Much. Finally, some good news. Footnote. Last Thanksgiving I ran my first marathon in a long time. My time was only 5 minutes slower than my personal record from a decade earlier. Probably my greatest athletic performance ever. A legend in my own mind.

4. Amsterdam’s Plea to Tourists: Visit, But Please Behave Yourself. The problem of “overtourism”. Based upon the pictures, I will pass.

“Sometime it is as simple as tourists not realizing that real people live here.”

Reminds me of signs I see in a nearby neighborhood I cycle through regularly. “Drive like your kids live here.”

Bonus.

Of Moods and Madness

One in five Americans are affected my mental illness in a given year.

I knew nothing about mental illness until ten years ago. I’m still skiing on the beginner slopes, but thanks to Kay Redfield Jamison, I am making up for being late to the game.

Her “memoir of moods and madness”, Unquiet Mind, is incredibly illuminating and highly recommended. In addition to being a preeminent scientist, Jamison writes exceedingly well. Of her memoir, Oliver Sacks wrote, “It stands alone in the literature of manic-depression for its bravery, brilliance and beauty.”

A few take-aways.

  • No one chooses bipolar illness, it’s inherited. It’s also treatable with a combination of medication (typically lithium) and psychotherapy. Things do not turn out well for patients who choose not to take lithium. In Jamison’s case, small doses worked better than medium ones.
  • With a combo of meds and psychotherapy, people with bipolar disorder live life as fully and “successfully” as any other cross-section of people. Jamison has done okay.
  • Jamison enjoys numerous, positive friendships. Being mentally ill doesn’t have to limit one interpersonally.
  • Jamison was fortunate to be surrounded by highly educated  and caring scientists who were, with one notable exception, incredibly supportive of her upon learning of her condition.

Jamison’s colleagues and friends, with their unconditional positive regard for her, provide a model for the rest of us to help acquaintances, friends, and family with bipolar and other mental illnesses thrive.