Sunday, January 31, 2016

Looking inside psychopath's brain

[W]e know very little about psychopathy, but without scanning technology, we'd probably know even less. It's easy for a psychopath to feign caring and remorse when his brain tells a different story.
James Fallon, The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (New York: Current, 2013), p. 19

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The patients of a writing psychiatrist

[V]irtually every one of my patients comes to me having read something I've written; that was the reason they came to me. My patients like the human approach that I take, rather than a technical or analytic or more disinterested approach. As for how peole feel being written about, that's a different question. In Love's Executioner, for example, I received written permission from each patient and showed them early drafts and made certain they were satisfied with the degree of disguise. I disguised the characters so deeply they would not recognize themselves. I changed their sex, their race, everything. But the story was still a true story—the story itself, what transpired between the characters, was entirely true. After that book, I continued to use ideas that were stimulated by my clinical work but did not tell the story of a patient. When I see a patient in a therapy session, very often ideas come. Not exactly the patient's story, but ideas. None of my patients are really troubled by the idea that some part of what they say might be in a book in the future. Some have expressed the very opposite feeling—the fear that they would not be interesting enough to write about.
"An Interview with Irvin D. Yalom" in Irvin D. Yalom & Robert L. Brent, I'm Calling the Police (New York: Basic Books, 2011)

Friday, January 29, 2016

1945 German wonders about her German identity

"Who knows what they did? In my name. Sometimes I think I don't want to be German anymore. Isn't that terrible? Not wanting to be who you are. I don't want to know what they did."
Lena, in Joseph Kanon, The Good German (2001), p. 342

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What are behavioral economists up to?

This is the real goal of behavioral economics: to try to understand the way we really operate so that we can more readily observe our biases, be more aware of their influences on us, and hopefully make better decisions. Although I can't imagine that we will ever become perfect decision makers, I do believe that an improved understanding of the multiple irrational forces that influence us could be a useful first step toward making better decisions. And we don't have to stop there. Inventors, companies, and policy makers can take the additional steps to redesign our working and living environments in ways that are naturally more compatible with what we can and cannot do.
In the end, this is what behavioral economics is about—figuring out the hidden forces that shape our decisions, across many different domains, and finding solutions to common problems that affect our personal, business, and public lives.
Dan Ariely, The Updside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), pp. 9-10.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Prosecutor doesn't want be a political boss

I wanted to develop a different model—what I eventually came to call the Justice Model. I consciously tried to reduce the personal power of the prosecutor while extending the scope of the office itself. We looked for opportunities to rectify injustice, bring a rule of law to places neglected before, and make justice itself the guiding principle, not political influence or partisan benefit. I did not want to be a better political boss than Carroll; I wanted the office to move outside of the political world. 
Christopher T. Bayley, Seattle Justice: The Rise and Fall of the Police Payoff System in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2015), ch. 7. (Bayley was King County Prosecutor 1971-78.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Prosecutor uses staff for politics

Carroll's power base began in his office, with around fifty deputy prosecutors plus an equal number of supporting staff. After purging the staff he inherited in 1948, he subsequently hired loyal Republicans as replacements, enhancing his power in the Republican Party. With an eye toward reelection, he chose among Republicans on the basis of ethnic identity and political connections.

Carroll made further political use of his staff after he hired them, insisting they remain politically loyal to him and work in his campaigns. . . . Carroll told one deputy, "Look, this is a political office. You want to work for me, you work for me twenty-four hours a day. I want you to work on my campaign. Donate as much oney as you can to it, because when I don't have a job, you don't have a job."
Christopher T. Bayley, Seattle Justice: The Rise and Fall of the Police Payoff System in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2015), ch.3. (Charles O. Carroll was King County Prosecuting Attorney 1948-70.)
 Chuck Carroll's idea of "diversity" had been like filling a twelve-crayon Crayola box: choose one of each color or ethnic group. He liked to boast this office was a mini-United Nations. but he used his deputies to garner political support from Seattle's orgnized racial and ethnic communities, not to reach out to them.
Id., ch. 7.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"The story of a poor man's life is written on his body"

A rich man's body is like a premium cotton pillow, white and soft and blank. Ours are different. My father's spine was a knotted rope, the kind that women use in villages to pull water from wells; the clavicle curved around his neck in high relief, like a dog's collar; cuts and nicks and scars, like little whip marks in his flesh, ran down his chest and waist, reaching down below his hip bones into his buttocks. The story of a poor man's life is written on his body, in a sharp pen.
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (New York: Free Press, 2008), p. 22.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hot gambling industry in Washington State in 1960s

Estimates of gross gambling profits for the state are thus uncertain, but some claimed they ranged from $50 to $100 million per year in the sixties. By comparison, Boeing's net earnings for 1965 were $78 million. Washington stood out in the United States for its levels of gambling, at least on paper. The federal government required gambling operators to buy federal gambling stamps and pay gambling revenues [sic—should it be pay tax on gambling revenues?]. In other parts of the country, doing so exposed gamblers to arrest for violationof local laws. In Seattle, that wasn't a problem, and in 1961 approximately one-third of all wagering stamps purchased in the country were bought in Washington.
Christopher T. Bayley, Seattle Justice: The Rise and Fall of the Police Payoff System in Seattle (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2015), ch. 2.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ooh, an editor!

When people ask what I do and I tell them I'm an editor, they often look impressed, even jealous, saying that editing must be a glamorous, exciting job. I often respond by asking if they've ever proofread an index, or trawled through an entire manuscript cross-reference superscript note indicators with the corresponding endnote numbers. They tend to have left by the time I get to the end of the sentence.2 . . .
2Though just for the record, nothing comes close to the near-hallucinogenic thrill of spotting a typo in an index.
Drummond Moir, comp., Just My Typo (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2014), p. 135.

India has entrepreneurs

Apparently, sir, you Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don't have entrepreneurs. And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs. Thousands and thousands of them.
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger (New York: Free Press, 2008), p. 2

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Baby or dog?

I imagine there are people out there who got a dog when what they wanted was a baby, but I wonder if there aren’t other people who had a baby when all they really needed was a dog. 
Ann Patchett, “This Dog’s Life,” in The Editors of The Bark, eds., Dog Is My Co-Pilot (New York: Three-Rivers Press, 2003), p. 24 (essay runs pp. 19-24). (Editors are Claudia Kawcynska and Cameron Woo.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bad parents not that bad

Horace and Loretta were fairly terrible, narcissistic parents, there was no arguing that, but they weren't Pol Pot, they weren't Idi Amin. Or at least they were confined to a smaller stage.
Carol Anshaw, Carry the One (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), p.

King advises: use direct action and legal action

Direct action is not a substitute for work in the courts and the halls of government. Bringing about passage of a new and broad law or pleading cases before the courts of the land, does not eliminate the necessity for bringing about the mass dramatization of injustice in front of a city hall. Indeed, direct action and legal action complement one another; when skillfully employed, each becomes more effective.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Remarks at the Convocation on Equal Justice Under Law, sponsored by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, May 28, 1964, p. 4

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Materials made inventions possible

In later years, it would be a kind of received wisdom that many of the revolutionary technologies that arose at Bell labs in the 1940s and 1950s owed their existence to dashing physicists such as Bill Shockley, and to the iconoclastic ideas of  quantum mechanics.  These men could effectively see into the deepest  recesses of the atom, and could theorize inventions no one had previously deemed possible. More fundamentally, however, the coming age of technologies owed its existence to a quiet revolution in materials. Indeed, without new materials—that is, materials that were created through chemistry techniques, of rare  and common metals that could now be brought to a novel state of ultrapurity by resourceful metallurgists—the actual  physical inventions of this period might have been impossible. Shockley would have spent his  career trapped in a prison of elegant theory. 
Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 81

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Scientists' different styles

Some scientists thrive on the conceptual; their minds can envision particles that the most powerful microscopes can't show us; processes that can't be directly observed, but only inferred, guessed at, by interpreting a slew of complex biochemical by-products. I am not one of these scientists; I need bones and teeth, things I can see with my eyes and grasp with my hands. Jason Eshleman, on the other hand, can see with his mind's eye, grasping the complex interactions of the most complex molecules int he body, DNA.
Dr. Bill Bass & Jon Jefferson, Beyond the Body Farm: A Legendary Bone Detective Explores Murders, Mysteries, and the Revolution in Forensic Science (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), p. 246

Friday, January 15, 2016

Muphry's Law

Some readers have wondered why I claim only to edit the Society of Editors Newsletter "in places". Some suggest that I am too modest, or that I deliberately include a mistake or two in each issue, on the Islamic principle, or simply to make you feel superior. It is for none of these reasons. It is because of my deep respect for Muphry's Law.

Muphry's Law is the editorial application of the better-known Murphy's Law. Muphry's Law dictates that (a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written; (b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book; (c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault; (d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.
John Bangsund, Society of Editors Newsletter (Victoria, Australia), March 1992, reprinted in Bangsund's website, Threepenny Planet.

Balancing act using big vocabulary

Word collectors always have to tread a fine line between flattering their readers’ erudition and basking in their own, and [William F.] Buckley couldn't always keep his balance. He had a weakness for what the critic H. W. Fowler described as "Wardour Street words," after the street in Soho where Londoners used to shop for decorative bric-a-brac. He couldn't resist using catechize in place of question or grill, vaticination for forecast, estop for stop, and eo ipso for in and of itself.
Geoffrey Nunberg, “Puttin’ on the Style,” in The Years of Talking Dangerously (New York: PublicAffairs, 2009), p. 34

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Secrets in the deep ocean community

The deep ocean was such a hostile environment and it cost so many millions of dollars to go there that no one ever went there unless there was a good reason. Half the time that reason was a top-secret, national security interest of the government, and the other half it was a highly proprietary big business venture. Everybody in the deep-ocean community ran around with little secrets ricocheting around the insiders of their skulls like billiard balls at the break and talked like good ol' boys, sizing each other up. And since everybody always wanted to know what everybody else was doing, they listened real close to what you said, so you had to be careful how you phrased your questions:The community was so small and incestuous, the equipment so rare and specialized, that one word too specific and the listener could quickly calculate what you were about to do and where you were about to do it.
Gary Kinder, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea (New York: Grove Publishing, 1998), Kindle loc. 4534

Disseminate scientific ideas, but not engineering

The ideas of scientists thrive on publication and broad dissemination; but the ideas of engineers, especially during wartime, thrive only if secrecy is maintained.
Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 64

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Writers' literary personae

[W]riters of all kinds are superstitious about their gifts and about their relationship to their readers. They know in their hearts that their literary personae are not quite what they themselves are—to pick an extreme example, the narrator of Justine, by the Marquis de Sade, was far more ruthless and imaginative than the Marquis himself. The rest of us writers are not quite so funny nor so compassionate nor so tough, nor so enterprising nor so discerning in our lives as we are in our books. If we were, then our friends and family would esteem us as highly as some of our readers do. And so it is an act of some bravery to lay aside the persona at the behest of a newspaper and come forth as oneself, dull, sublunary, just a guy or a gal, with quirks and crochets [sic] and odd habits.
Jane Smiley, "Introduction," in Writers on Writing Volume II (2003), p. xii

Writers face writing with dread

I have never in my life known a writer who enjoyed the actual act of writing less than Lucy [Grealy], which is saying something because just about every writer I know sits down to work with some degree of dread. 
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty: A Friendship (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004), p. 113.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Working at sea isn't a walk in the park

Offshore no one functions at 100 percent. [Mike] Williamson figured you could take anyone who performs well on the beach and put them in a small ship at sea and their productivity would drop by 90 percent. Ships the size of the Pine River pitched and rolled. They were powered by diesel engines, which were noisy and belched fumes that filled the head when the head already felt light from the rocking of the ship. Anyone who said they never got seasick was lying; seasickness incapacitated some people, greatly reduced the abilities of others, and dropped the productivity in all. . . . When you haven't slept well for days, and the engines are groaning and causing the hull itself to vibrate, and the very place you plant your feet is slick steel constantly in motion, and the entire space you have is much less than half the size of a football field, and crowded into that space are twenty other men, at least half of whom you've never seen before, and you're trying to get your work done in a sailor's three point—two feet on the deck, one hand holding on—you get to where you just can't tolerate certain things.
Gary Kinder, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea (New York: Grove Publishing, 1998), Kindle loc.4016

Monday, January 11, 2016

No evidence (yet) that music education helps academic achievement

When schools began cutting even these bands and sing-along music classes, an army of researchers, performers, teachers, and administrators hustled to justify their existence. They rationalized arts education as a magic pill for achieving academic success, rather than teaching the arts solely for their intrinsic value.

In 2001, Harvard researchers would challenge this assertion, combing 188 studies published between 1950 and 1999 to evaluate the effect of arts education on general learning. Their results were shocking: No reliable causal relationship was found between music education and academic performance (except for spatial reasoning). Creative thinking, verbal scores, and math grades were all unaffected by studying music.
Blair Tindall, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music (New York: Grove Press, 2005), p. 258 (citing Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland, The Arts and Academic Achievement: What the Evidence Shows (Los Angeles: The Getty Center, 2001). I haven't found that, but there's an executive summary available here. See Ellen Winner & Lois Hetland eds., Beyond the Soundbite: Arts Education and Academic Outcomes (conference proceedings, 2000).)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

History should include thinkers, innovators

"I don't know how history is taught here in Japan," [Claude Shannon] told the audience when he traveled there in 1985 to give an acceptance speech, "but in the United States in my college days, most of the time was spent on the study of political leaders and wars—Caesars, Napoleons, and Hitlers. I think this is totally wrong. The important people and events of history are the thinkers and innovators, the Darwins, Newtons, Beethovens whose work continues to grow in influence in a positive fashion."
Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 322

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Miniature books might get read

Full-size books, too, go mostly unread. Even Keats only looked into Chapman’s Homer. Derrida, a few years before his death, ran his eyes over the books in his library and said that he’d read only four of them. A fan of miniature books might take solace from the words of Callimachus, the third-century Greek who tersely noted, "Big book, big bore." One can make a case that all books should be smaller, that nearly all of them are bloated beyond the size of he small original contributions their writers have to offer, that we would all read more, not less, if, like elegant travelers on the 18th-century grand tour, we carried small portable libraries in our reticules, instead of marooning on our nightstands stacks of large books that we will always be too tired to read.”
 Judith Pascoe, “Tiny Tomes,” American Scholar, v. 75 no. 3, Summer 2006, p.133, 138.

Sherlock Holmes craves data

"Data," he said, sounding like a man pleading for water in a desert place. "I cannot form so much as a hypothesis without raw material."
Laurie R. King, A Letter of Mary (New York: Picador, 1996), p. 143

Friday, January 8, 2016

Call an expert

"It only takes about three of four phone calls to find an expert bout any subject in the country," said [Dr. Lawrence] Stone, "and that was something he [Tommy Thompson] was always instructing me to do."
Gary Kinder, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea (New York: Grove Publishing, 1998), Kindle loc. 3914

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Individuality is wired in

Individuality is deeply imbued in us from the very start, at the neuronal level. Even at a motor level, researchers have shown, an infant does not follow a set pattern of learning to walk or how to reach for something. Each baby experiments with different ways of reaching for objects and over the course of severa months discovers or selects his own motor solutions.
Oliver Sacks, On the Move: A Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

First book makes an author taller

I wrote the last sentence of The Patron Saint of Liars in early April and stumbled out of my apartment and into the beautiful spring feeling panicked and amazed. There is no single experience in my life as a writer to match that moment, the blue of the sky and the breeze drifting in from the bay. I had done the thing I had always wanted to do: I had written a book, all the way to the end. Even if it proved to be terrible, it was mine. I found Elizabeth and we both printed out our books and stood on them to see how much taller they had made us. 
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty: A Friendship (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004), pp. 86-87.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Books in a royal dollhouse

Still, one can read a thumb Bible without a microscope. Dollhouse books are another matter. With their pages left blank or covered with the inchoate hash marks Woodstock uses to communicate with Snoopy, dollhouse books hint at widespread dolly illiteracy. Glorious exceptions, however, are the books in the library of Queen Mary’s dollhouse, a Georgian edifice designed by Edwin Lutyens as a gift for the current British queen’s grandmother. The mastermind behind the dollhouse was the Princess Marie Louise who took it upon herself to invite living authors to write original contributions or miniaturized versions of existing works suitable for royal dolls.
Judith Pascoe, “Tiny Tomes,” American Scholar, v. 75 no. 3, Summer 2006, p.133, 136.

Job satisfaction of orchestra musicians

The orchestra musician's plight caught the interest of Harvard researcher Richard Hackman, who was studying the job satisfaction of workers employed in a variety of industries. Orchestral musicians were near the bottom, scoring lower in job satisfaction and overall happiness than airline flight attendants, mental health treatment teams, beer salesmen government economic analysts, and even federal prison guards. Only operating room nurses and semiconductor fabrication teams scored lower than these musicians.
Blair Tindall, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music (New York: Grove Press, 2005), p. 215 (citing Paul R. Judy, "Life and Work in Symphony Orchestras: An Interview with J. Richard Hackman," Harmony, April 1996, p. 8)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Who cares if fabulous shoes ruin your feet?

"You have to learn how to wear his shoes—it doesn't happen overnight," [Sarah Jessica Parker] told me. "But by now I could run a marathon in a pair of Manolo Blahnik heels. I can race out and hail a cab. I can run up Sixth Avenue at full speed. I've destroyed my feet completely, but I don’t care. What do you really need your feet for, anyway?" 
Michael Specter, "High-Heel Heaven," in David Remnick, ed., The New Gilded Age: The New Yorker Looks at the Culture of Affluence (New York: Random House, 2000), p. 381

Thinking becomes dozing

Despite my intentions of using the time for careful introspection, I ended up inspecting no more than the backs of my eyelids.
Laurie R. King, A Letter of Mary (New York: Picador, 1996), p. 63

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The bulls of rush hour

Magically I was on the Hoboken ferry and then ashore, far downtown with the daily panic rush of commuters leaping and running and dodging in front, obeying no signals. Every evening is Pamplona in lower New York.
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America  (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), p. 276 (orig. published 1962)

Beaumont is flaaaaaat

On the surface, Beaumont is flat and—geographically, at least—about as interesting as a parking lot. The first settlers of record, in 1824, were named Noah and Nancy Tevis, and their settlement was called Tevis Bluff. The name must have been either a joke or a reference to a gambling strategy, because the elevation in Beaumont ranges from a few inches above sea level to a whopping twenty-two feet. Texans brag about how big everything out there is, but I have to say, no self-respecting Tennessean would even think of using the word "bluff" to describe a landscape you could scarcely stub your toe on.
Dr. Bill Bass & Jon Jefferson, Beyond the Body Farm: A Legendary Bone Detective Explores Murders, Mysteries, and the Revolution in Forensic Science (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), p. 214

Friday, January 1, 2016

So few sensible men

Miss Russell, then—d'you know, you've married one of the three sensible men I've ever met. Brains are wasted on most men—do nothing with their minds but play games and make money. Never see what's in from of their noses, too busy making sweeping generalisations.
Laurie R. King, A Letter of Mary (New York: Picador, 1996), p. 16 (Dorothy Ruskin speaking)

Herbert Clarke's practice regimen (in case you're looking for a crazy hard New Year's resolution)

[A]t my father's suggestion I took up the study of the viola. He said that if I could learn to play it well enough we would form a family string quartet . . . .

I immediately planned out a schedule for myself to play four full hours on the cornet each forenoon, with four on the viola every afternoon. . . .

One never-to-be-forgotten Sunday afternoon, about a month from the time when the project originally was started, we made our first full try-out on one of Mozart's beautiful string-quartet compositions. Everybody became so deeply absorbed, and the time passed so pleasantly, that nobody gave any thought about supper, although we were called several times. Father suddenly remembering that he was supposed to play the organ at evening church service, finally jumped up and left precipitately without stopping to eat. The rest of us then came down to earth long enough to eat.

This experience, new to me, was so fascinating and so increased my love for good music that I became more determined to follow out my previously planned schedule for routine work and study in a systematic manner. In detail my schedule was as follows: The cornet in the forenoon, with one hour on scales, one hour on slurring, one hour on tonguing and one hour on miscellaneous work: i.e., a little of each of the preceding combined with playing songs and easy solos. I kept this up all that winter, getting up early and working from eight in the morning to twelve noon. The afternoon was devoted to the viola, carrying out the same general system in scale playing, finger exercises, bowing, and playing parting from the different string quartets. My improvement on both instruments astonished even myself.
Herbert L. Clarke, How I Became a Cornetist: The Autobiography of a Cornet-Playing Pilgrim's Progress (1934), ch. 12. (He was 17.)