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Home: The Toast

Sansa is very fluffy at six weeks old, and I sense that if I picked her up and grasped her firmly and lovingly, as I would very much like to do, and then blew at her like she was a birthday cake, eighty percent of her body would drift off in the breeze.


Gawker canned a bunch of great folks, poorly, and you can learn more here.


This Nigeria bombing is horrible.


SYLVIA EARLE (Ian Frazier’s writing can get a little fanciful, but I genuinely enjoy him and always have):

And yet, somehow, there’s also a sense that nobody is listening. Sometimes, Sylvia’s sea blue eyes have the same gentle sorrow with which wise and kind aliens look at foolish earthlings in movies. “Many people I love have no idea of the trouble we’re in,” she says. When she started talking about the decline in fish populations, 25 years ago, the number of bluefin tuna remaining had fallen to about 10 percent of the total when the species was healthy. Today only about 3 percent of bluefin tuna remain. She keeps on telling us; we keep on not listening. She is like a bright red stop vehicle immediately light that’s been blinking on the dashboard for 25 years. But the car seems to keep going, so we keep on driving.


Jeb, Cruz, Kasich currently competing to see who can make Christianity/The United States/button-down shirts look worse.


Leslie Odom Jr was so good on Seth Myers I wanted to cry but only yelped.


Our own Caroline Crew, who wrote this lovely poem for us, is launching a collection into the world this month. It’s called Pink Museum, and you can pre-order it, and it will include “Plastic Sonnet 32.”


Lisa Hix on racist antiques (1. There are some truly, truly awful things in here, as you can imagine, so decide if today is the day to read it, and 2. I really appreciate how good Collectors Weekly is on this stuff, I’ve read such thoughtful work by them):

Pilgrim first encountered a piece of so-called “black memorabilia” at flea market in Mobile when he was a little kid. “I remember purchasing a ceramic Mammy salt-and-pepper shaker, and I broke it in front of the seller,” he recalls. “I would like to think it was an act of philosophical integrity, but in reality, I probably just hated the thing, if you can hate an object.”

But Pilgrim, who sometimes refers to himself as a “garbage collector,” became fascinated with these grotesque racial caricatures, and by the time he was a teenager, he had accumulated a small collection of them. When he attended Jarvis Christian College in the late 1970s, a historically black college near Hawkins, Texas, he got more serious about his collection, buying what he could afford on a tight budget—the most brutally racist objects were usually prohibitively expensive. At the same time, his studies at Jarvis delved into the history of black activism, from the well-known heroes like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois, to the sharecroppers and domestic workers who put their lives on the line to fight segregation.


Jessica Pan went to elf school and also disabused me of a fond notion I had about the Icelandic people and their whimsy:

Elf school in Iceland costs $48. This would be a steal if you walked out of the classroom transformed into a full-fledged elf; however, nearly $50 to listen to a non-elf tell you about Iceland’s so-called “hidden people” does not seem like a great tradeoff.

Infamously, 54 percent of Icelanders are said to believe in elves. (Icelanders protest that this ‘fact’ originates from a very carefully phrased question which asked, “Can you be 100 percent sure that elves do not exist?” Logically, 54 percent of them concluded that just because they have never seen an elf, that doesn’t mean that elves do not exist).


Maisonneuve looks at the risks and benefits of morcellation, and also the fight between a very outspoken husband/physician and his colleagues:

ABOUT HALF A MILLION American women have their fibroids or uteruses removed each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, some one hundred thousand of those operations involved morcellators. In Canada (not including Quebec), about forty thousand women have these surgeries annually and less than five thousand of those use the device. For the vast majority of women, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery (which sometimes relies on morcellation, but not always) will mean less hospital time, less bleeding, less infection, smaller scars and a quicker return to normal life. A subset, however, of which Amy Reed was one, will have a hidden cancer lurking inside them. And grinding it up could bump them from stage I cancer, with fighting odds of survival, to stage IV, a virtual death sentence.

As recently as October 2013, when Reed had her surgery, women all over North America were being told that their risk of being in that unlucky subset was about one in ten thousand. But after Reed’s diagnosis, Noorchashm, now on leave from his lung transplant training, started poking around medical databases and he got a sense that the risk might be higher. He was particularly startled to discover that an important paper on the subject by Brigham researchers had been published one year before his wife’s surgery. And among its authors was Michael Muto—the very gynecological oncologist who had cleared Reed for morcellation.


All of this is delightful (also, the God part is the MOST upper-crusty-English thing I have ever heard):

One of the great pleasures of such research lies in the unearthing of half-forgotten writers who have lost much of whatever fame they once had. Augustus Hare, whose heyday was the 1890s, was a traveller, art lover and eccentric. Somerset Maugham, who knew him, described a visit to his country home during which the younger writer noticed that the wording of the prayers at morning worship for the servants was unfamiliar. “I’ve crossed out all the passages in glorification of God,” Hare explained. “God is certainly a gentleman and no gentleman cares to be praised to his face.” Like God, Hare was a gentleman but he was an impoverished one and he was obliged to churn out vast amounts of writing to keep himself in the style he wanted. He presents his supernatural tales as events that really happened to friends and acquaintances, although sceptics might like to note that The Vampire of Croglin Grange, the story I included in my anthology, bears a number of similarities to events in Varney the Vampire, a gore-filled penny dreadful of the 1840s.


Digging deeper into the PACE study on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which purported to show that psychotherapy and exercise are the best treatment for CFS):

The PACE researchers have refused to release the data in the past, arguing that “activists seeking to discredit the PACE trial and its researchers” would somehow decrypt the anonymous details in the data and publish the names of participants. And White told me that the changes to the original protocol “improved the science and interpretation. We see no reason why we should do a further analysis based on an inferior method.” Horton, editor of the Lancet, didn’t respond to my request for comment.

“The Lancet needs to stop circling the wagons and be open,” says Bruce Levin, a biostatistician at Columbia University who signed the open letter. “One of the tenets of good science is transparency.”

Davis, the Stanford geneticist, has a son with ME/CFS so severe that he can’t walk, talk, or eat. Davis goes even further: “The Lancet should step up to the plate and pull that paper,” he says. “It has lots of flaws, and I worry that it hurts patients.” Davis has now started his own effort to find a cure for the disease, called the End ME/CFS Project. He is collecting a vast amount of data on severe patients like his son, who have almost never been included in studies because they are too frail to go to a doctor or clinic.


Bill Simmons asked Obama a lot of questions I didn’t care about and then went for my feels:

I’m two years away. Is it better, worse, or the same than what you expected when everybody told you, “Oh, just wait—just wait till they’re teenagers”?
My daughters are amazing girls. They’re smart, they’re funny. They take after their mom, and Michelle’s done a great job with them. You get these teenage moments—they love you, but what I think really affects you most is they just don’t have time for you. It’s not an active disdain for you. It’s just their calendars start filling up and they’ve got all these friends who are much more interesting.

Yeah, you’re not the coolest person in their lives anymore.
And you just have to let go, you have to acknowledge that if you say to them, “Hey, you want to go watch this movie?” or “Hey, you want to go take a swim at the pool?” “No, sorry, Daddy. I love you, though. See you tomorrow, ’cause I’m spending the night at somebody’s house.” The golden age is between, say, 6, 7, and 12, and they’re your buddies and they just want to hang out. And after that, they will love you, but they don’t have that much time for you. And my understanding is, based on friends of mine who have older kids, is that with a little bit of luck, as long as you’re not so completely annoying during these teenage years, they’ll come back to you around 23, 24, and actually want to hang out with you. But that stretch is painful. The compensation you get for the fact that they don’t have time for you is: Nothing beats watching your children become smarter and cooler than you are. And you suddenly will hear them say something or make a joke or have an insight and you go, “Wow. I didn’t think of that.”


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