Weekly Meanderings, 19 December 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 9.06.35 PMSarah Larimer, good story of the week:

Safyre Terry got her Christmas cards.

Okay, to be a bit more exact, she got hundreds of thousands of them — including about 185,000 on Monday alone.

You may remember hearing about Safyre; we wrote about her last week. Just about everybody did.

When Safyre was 5, an arsonist set fire to the stairwell of her family’s apartment stairwell in Schenectady, N.Y. Her father was killed in the blaze, as were her younger sister and two younger brothers.

Safyre, who is now 8, suffered severe burns. Her foot and hand were eventually amputated, and she lost skin on her face.

This year, Liz Dolder, Safyre’s aunt and legal guardian, put up a Christmas card tree in their home in Upstate New York. Safyre helped, Dolder said, and was eager to add a card to it. Safyre told her that she couldn’t wait to fill it up, Dolder said. The aunt replied that she didn’t think that was going to happen.

But then a viral card campaign began, after a photo of Safyre and the card tree was posted to the Safyre Schenectady’s Super Survivor page on Facebook, and Dolder’s friends helped. It spread online, and cards poured in to the P.O. box that Dolder had opened — a box in “the smallest post office there is,” she said.

Schenectady Postmaster John Reilly told ABC News that it took two two-ton mail trucks — plus a rented cargo truck — to deliver Monday’s haul alone. It was, Reilly told ABC, “the most mail we’ve ever gotten for a single person in Schenectady.”

Now Bob Nightengale, on Pete Rose:

It’s over. [Rose’s relentless badgering to be part of the Hall of Fame.] “This is it, I don’t think we’ll hear about this again,’’ [former Commish Fay] Vincent said. “He never cared overall about the game of baseball. All he cared about was Pete Rose. “Really, Shoeless Joe Jackson [suspended with his White Sox teammates for his role in fixing the 1919 World Series] is probably a stronger candidate than Pete Rose, and there is really no interest in opening that up, and that was in 1919.’’ So what would have happened if Rose had told the truth back in 1989? What if he didn’t wait until his book was published in 2004 that he lied? Would it have made a difference? “We talked about, but that assumes an elephant can fly,’’ Vincent said. “It assumes that Pete Rose might have done something in 1989 that he’s totally incapable of doing, and that’s telling the truth, and acting in baseball’s best interest instead of his own. “All he has ever been concerned about is Pete Rose.’’ Now, as sad or cruel as it might sound, no one may care about Pete Rose again. He will never be in the Hall of Fame, certainly, not while Rose still is alive.

Arden Dier:

(NEWSER) – “People aren’t meant to be alone.” That’s Kristoffer Glestad’s revelation after spending six months in isolation in the Canadian wilderness. Living off the land with a few hundred pounds of gear probably sounds like a nightmare to some, but it was Glestad’s childhood dream. “The dream was to go out to Canada, live off the land, fish, and see the nature,” he tells the CBC. After a year and a half of planning, the 26-year-old Norwegian—who once tried to ski to the North Pole, per the Digital Journal—hired a pilot to take him to a nameless lake about an hour outside a community of 800 in the Northwest Territories. “It was a really weird feeling, dropping a guy off with a one-way ticket,” the pilot says. “I shook Kris’s hand and more or less said, ‘Good luck to you.'” Armed with a rifle, axe, saw, tent, and rations, Glestad got to work on a log cabin and tried to get used to the quiet.

“You get so tired of thinking. You think all the time,” he says. “The only entertainment is what you do yourself.” Glestad made occasional calls to friends, family, and his doctor using a satellite phone, but he remembers realizing at one point that he hadn’t spoken aloud in two weeks. “I tried to sing. I can’t sing,” he says. “I tried to talk to myself, but I felt foolish, so I told stories to myself.” While he “didn’t find the meaning of life,” he says looking at the lake made him feel “like the richest man on the planet.” One of the most exciting moments happened one night when he was sleeping in his tent. “I heard a wolf howling on the left side of the tent, really close. Two others answered on the right side, even closer,” he says. But wolves aren’t great company. “I knew I liked my family. I knew I like being with friends,” says Glestad. “I didn’t know I cared that much, that I could long for being with those people so hard.”

You go Norway!

As someone with Norwegian heritage, I grew up hearing about the country’s greatness like it was a fabled realm: the fjords, the farming, the lutefisk and lefse. But it turns out it isn’t just my crazy relatives: Norway actually is awesome—and the United Nations says so.

For the 12th year in a row, Norway has claimed the United Nations’ coveted spot in the Human Development Report, which evaluated 188 countries and territories in three primary areas: life expectancy, education, and income/standard of living. With a life expectancy of 81.6 years and a gross national income per capita of $64,992, Norway received the highest composite score of 0.944. In second and third place were Australia (0.935) and Switzerland (0.930), with Denmark (0.923) and theNetherlands (0.922) rounding out the top five. Niger, with a score of 0.348, ranked the lowest.

Norway also topped the November 2015 Prosperity Index for the seventh year in a row, which evaluated 142 qualifying countries on criteria including economy, education, personal freedom, and health. And while it’s one of Europe’s priciest countries, it’s also one of its most beautiful: whether you’re visiting itsisolated islands, taking 3,000-mile road trips along the country’s western coast, or witness to views so beautiful they inspired the artists of Frozen. Well played, Norway.

Roger Scruton, once again, with Mick Hume:

At the end of the book, Scruton asks why this unrepresentative group of left intellectuals has achieved such ascendancy, and offers some reasons. As I point out, he does not suggest that one reason might be the paucity of conservative intellectuals, present company excluded of course.

‘I agree there is a paucity of conservative thought. It is partly the effect of the dominance of the left. If you come out as a conservative in a university context, you will find yourself very much on the margins. But my main explanation of this is that conservative thought is difficult. It doesn’t consist of providing fashionable slogans or messages of hope and marching into the future with clenched fists and all the things that automatically get a following. It consists in careful, sceptical rumination on the near-impossibility of human existence in the first place.’

Gabby Giffords:

Since that tragedy three years ago today, about 30,000 more Americans have beenmurdered with guns. Some were killed by strangers. Many of them by people they knew. Some were Republicans, and some were Democrats.  All, I know, were loved. All, like those kids at Sandy Hook, have left a hole in their families’ hearts that is eternal. Many of their deaths might not have made the headlines, but we must grieve for them, too. As another year since the tragedy at Sandy Hook passes, I sometimes struggle to find the hope that has carried me along my path — to Congress and then back from the brink of death after a gunman opened fire on me and my constituents on Jan. 8, 2011. Because I know that this week, Congress will do exactly what its members have done every week since those 20 kindergartners and first-graders were murdered in their classrooms: nothing at all. That’s cowardice, an embrace of the shameful status quo we’ve grown to expect from a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip. Many of my former colleagues are in the cold clutches of pessimism and its key ingredient: fear. Thankfully, Americans are not as easily intimidated. And some leaders are not cowed. Despite Congress’ inaction, Americans continue to support and call for commonsense action. Nine out of ten Americans continue to support closing the loopholes that let dangerous people get guns with no questions asked.

Rachel Saslow:

The mall couldn’t have a traditional Santa Claus because it’s in Portland. In the Oregon city that prides itself on refusing convention, even the mainstay of Christmas has to be quirky and hyper-local. A red hat and suit? Please. Try a man bun, Pendleton sweater and heavy-rimmed glasses.

Meet Hipster Santa.

In the rotunda of Pioneer Place in downtown Portland, Hipster Santa gives out temporary tattoos instead of candy canes. He parks his red bike right next to the Christmas tree. A partridge statue is perched on top of his chair. “We put a bird on it,” said a representative from the mall, echoing a refrain from the hipster cult hit show “Portlandia.”

Last Thursday, people lined up for 90 minutes to meet and pose for pictures with this unique Santa. Yes, there were families — a toddler lay on the floor crying and a mom cleaned her son’s face with spit right before his picture was taken — but there were a surprising number of 20-somethings there sans children. They came for a fresh take on the Christmas spirit and for a great shot to post to Instagram with #hipstersanta.

“I haven’t gone back to see Santa in years so this feels different and we’re really excited,” said 27-year-old Megan Murphy, who came after work with a group of friends. Murphy asked Santa for a new car but her friend Stephanie Honeyman, 26, tailored her Christmas requests to this specific Saint Nick.

Wonderful article on the habits of some famous writers, including …

Henry Miller: “When you can’t create you can work.”

In 1932, the famous writer and painter Henry Miller created a work schedule that listed his “Commandments” for him to follow as part of his daily routine. This list was published in the book, Henry Miller on Writing:

  1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.

  2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”

  3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

  4. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!

  5. When you can’t create you can work.

  6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.

  7. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

  8. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.

  9. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

  10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

  11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Carolyn Y. Johnson:

Donald Trump’s long-time personal physician wrote in a letter released Monday that Trump would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” if he wins the election. But a new study suggests that if he wins, he’ll also lose 2.7 years of his life, to be precise.

For years, world leaders have appeared to age rapidly right before our eyes, their faces pinched by the stress of each passing year, their hair grayer and perhaps a little thinner with each passing month. One theory goes that for every day in office, a president ages two days. But are our eyes deceiving us? In 2011, a study of U.S. presidents found that leading the United States was no worse for a person’s lifespan than merely being a citizen in it.

However, the new study, published in the British Medical Journal on Monday, reopens the question of whether winning an election is a health hazard. The authors compared the leaders of 17 countries with the would-be presidents and prime ministers who lost the elections. The idea was simple: winners and losers are more similar to one another than they are to the average resident, so lifespan differences could reveal the real health toll of leading a country. The researchers calculated that the price of winning an election is nearly three years of life.

Leading a country “probably is medically ill-advised, in the sense that there’s certainly a plausible risk of higher mortality if you’re elected to lead,” said Anupam Jena, an associate professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School who oversaw the study. “But we make all sorts of trade-offs in our lives because it gives us joy or it is for a greater social good.”

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