Monday Miscellany: Corgwn, Childhood Immunizations, Challenges

1. Drop everything you’re doing and read this Reddit AMA with Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler. And if you haven’t read A Series of Unfortunate Events, clear a space in the debris from the stuff you just dropped and read a while.

Q: What should I name my new cat?
A: “The Plague.” Has anyone seen The Plague? Is the Plague in your room? It really rolls off the tongue.

Q: Hello Mr. Snicket/Handler! I’m a huge fan. When The Beatrice Letters came out I spent hours dissecting it for clues. Here’s my question: was there any reason you kept the ending of book 13 so ambiguous rather than answering a lot of the questions readers had about the series directly?
A: I think books which ask questions are more interesting than books which answer them. For instance, after reading this comment I had the question, “How can a huge fan manage to use a computer? Isn’t it busy cooling the air someplace?”

2. It took me a very long time to figure out that this (excerpted at pull quote) was the difference between my experience of happy occasions and the experiences of my depressed friends. Miri on the 100 Happy Days challenge:

I can’t be happy for 100 days in a row because my brain doesn’t work that way. The good feelings don’t “stick.” When they happen, they’re genuine and meaningful, but they wash away like words scratched into the sand. I argue against them without meaning to. That essay was shit. He doesn’t give a fuck about you. Everything about you is ugly. Your parents will die and you won’t even have the money to fly to their funerals. Your siblings barely remember what you look like because you’re never home. Your partners will leave you for real girlfriends, as opposed to the sloppy facsimile of one that you are. Everything good is temporary; everything bad is permanent.

3. The failure mode of naked is ‘objectification’.

A few years back, John Scalzi wrote a blog post with a line that has made its way around the internet. “The failure mode of clever is ‘asshole.’”  ‘The effectiveness of clever on other people is highly contingent on outside factors, over which you have no control and of which you may not have any knowledge; i.e., just because you intended to be clever doesn’t mean you will be perceived as clever, for all sorts of reasons.’
Why do I bring this up nearly four years after Scalzi’s post? Because I’ve been chewing over a different case of failed communication in the last few days, and I realized that it can be generalized to a rule very much like the one Scalzi posited: The failure mode of naked is “objectification”.

4. Hunh. This is an interesting way to look at IQ/personality:

It’s theoretically possible to measure personality traits through ability tests. For instance, agreeableness could be measured through tests of perspective taking, conscientiousness could be measured through tests of self-control, and neuroticism could be measured through measures of emotional self-regulation. Viewing IQ as a personality trait is helpful because it puts IQ in perspective. We can take a birds eye view of all the many fascinating ways we differ from one another in cognitive processing, emotion, and motivation, while seeing where IQ fits into that bigger picture.

5. Gwen Pearson would like you to know that “Jumping spiders are the corgis of the spider world.” Color me….skeptical. (h/t Ed Yong) Also, the lesser-known plural of corgi is corgwn. Welsh is cool.

6. I grumped about the way we talk about childhood immunizations and lo, here’s the American Academy of Arts & Sciences with a monograph on research to increase public trust in vaccines. (Again, h/t Ed)

7. I want your imperfect empathy.


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