Kid needs permission slip to read ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ his dad’s response is brilliant

The temperature at which permission slips receive sick burns.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s cautionary tale about book censorship, was written as a response to the paranoid political climate of the McCarthy era, but its message apparently still hasn’t sunk in. It’s 2016, and some kids still aren’t allowed to read the book without a permission slip from their parents.

Daily Show head writer Daniel Radosh just had to sign a note so his son could read it for a school book club. As Radosh’s son Milo explained in the note, Fahrenheit 451 has been challenged over the years by parents who object to the book’s mild swears (“hell” and “damn”) and its depiction of Bible-burning.

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But those objections miss the point of the novel—they could only be more ironic if parents were calling for copies of Bradbury’s book to be destroyed. And Radosh is practically an irony-spotter by profession, so this wasn’t lost on him. He signed the slip and attached his own note, praising Milo’s teacher for immersing the kids so thoroughly in the world of Fahrenheit 451.

Here’s what he wrote:

I love this letter! What a wonderful way to introduce students to the theme of Fahrenheit 451 that books are so dangerous that the institutions of society — schools and parents — might be willing to team up against children to prevent them from reading one. It’s easy enough to read the book and say, ‘This is crazy. It could never really happen,’ but pretending to present students at the start with what seems like a totally reasonable ‘first step’ is a really immersive way to teach them how insidious censorship can be I’m sure that when the book club is over and the students realize the true intent of this letter they’ll be shocked at how many of them accepted it as an actual permission slip. In addition, Milo’s concern that allowing me to add this note will make him stand out as a troublemaker really brings home why most of the characters find it easier to accept the world they live in rather than challenge it. I assured him that his teacher would have his back.

Looks like this assignment’s going to be a learning experience for everyone involved.

A Mexican Hospital, an American Surgeon, and a $5,000 Check (Yes, a Check)

By Phil Galewitz – New York Times

CANCÚN, Mexico — Donna Ferguson awoke in the resort city of Cancún before sunrise on a sweltering Saturday in July.

She wasn’t headed to the beach. Instead, she walked down a short hallway from her Sheraton hotel and into Galenia Hospital.

A little later that morning, a surgeon, Dr. Thomas Parisi, who had flown in from Wisconsin the day before, stood by Ms. Ferguson’s hospital bed and used a black marker to note which knee needed repair. “I’m ready,” Ms. Ferguson, 56, told him just before being taken to the operating room for her total knee replacement. For this surgery, she would not only receive free care, but would receive a check when she got home.

The hospital costs of the American medical system are so high that it made financial sense for both a highly trained orthopedist from Milwaukee and a patient from Mississippi to leave the country and meet at an upscale private Mexican hospital for the surgery.
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Ms. Ferguson gets her health coverage through her husband’s employer, Ashley Furniture Industries. The cost to Ashley was less than half of what a knee replacement in the United States would have been. That’s why its employees and dependents who use this option have no out-of-pocket co-pays or deductibles for the procedure; in fact, they receive a $5,000 payment from the company, and all their travel costs are covered.

Dr. Parisi, who spent less than 24 hours in Cancún, was paid $2,700, or three times what he would have received from Medicare, the largest single payer of hospital costs in the United States. Private insurers often base their reimbursement rates on what Medicare pays.
ImageMs. Ferguson’s surgery was Dr. Thomas Parisi’s first one in Cancún. He spent less than 24 hours there and was paid triple what Medicare would reimburse in the United States.
Ms. Ferguson’s surgery was Dr. Thomas Parisi’s first one in Cancún. He spent less than 24 hours there and was paid triple what Medicare would reimburse in the United States.CreditRocco Saint-Mleux for Kaiser Health News

Ms. Ferguson is one of hundreds of thousands of Americans who seek lower-cost care outside the United States each year, with many going to Caribbean and Central American countries. For many, a key question is whether the facility offers quality care.

In a new twist on medical tourism, a Denver company is tapping into this market. The company, North American Specialty Hospital, known as NASH, has organized treatment for a couple of dozen Americans at Galenia since 2017.

Dr. Parisi, a graduate of the Mayo Clinic, is one of about 40 orthopedic surgeons in the United States who have signed up with NASH, to travel to Cancún on their days off to treat American patients. NASH is betting that having an American surgeon will alleviate concerns some people have about going outside the country, and persuade self-insured American employers to offer this option to their workers to save money and still provide high-quality care. NASH, a for-profit company that charges a fixed amount for each case, is paid by the employer or an intermediary that arranged the treatment.

“It was a big selling point, having an American doctor,” Ms. Ferguson said.

The American surgeons work closely with a Mexican counterpart and local nurses. NASH buys additional malpractice coverage for the American physicians, who could be sued in the United States by patients unhappy with their results.

“In the past, medical tourism has been mostly a blind leap to a country far away, to unknown hospitals and unknown doctors with unknown supplies, to a place without U.S. medical malpractice insurance,” said James Polsfut, the chief executive of NASH. “We are making the experience completely different and removing as much uncertainty as we can.”

Medical tourism has been around for decades but has become more common in the past 20 years as more countries and hospitals around the world market themselves to foreigners.

There are, of course, risks to going outside the country, including the headache of travel and the possibility that the standards of care may be lower than at home. If something goes wrong, patients will be far from family and friends who can help — and it might be more difficult to sue providers in other countries.
Chasing Lower Costs

The high prices charged at American hospitals make it relatively easy to offer surgical bargains in Mexico: In the United States, knee replacement surgery costs an average of about $30,000 — sometimes double or triple that — but at Galenia, it is only $12,000, said Dr. Gabriela Flores Teón, medical director of the facility.

The standard charge for a night in the hospital is $300 at Galenia, Dr. Flores said, compared with $2,000 on average at United States hospitals.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/09/business/medical-tourism-mexico.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab for the rest of the story

The Beatles Abbey Road Photoshoot

On August 8 1979, The Beatles were on a photoshoot for their eleventh studio album, Abbey Road. The album’s cover remains as recognisable as the music it holds.

Flashbak

On August 8 1969, The Beatles were on a photoshoot for their eleventh studio album, Abbey Road. The album’s cover remains as recognisable as the music it holds. Photographer Iain Macmillan (20 October 1938 – 8 May 2006) had only a few minutes to get George, Paul, Ringo and John into position.

There have been many tributes to his picture of the Fab Four crossing the road in London’s St John’s Wood. The first came in the spring of 1970. Booker T. and the MGs released McLemore Avenue. The album’s cover features a picture of the band crossing Memphis Street outside Stax studios. “I was in California when I heard Abbey Road, and I thought it was incredibly courageous of The Beatles to drop their format and move out musically like they did,” said Booker T. “To push the limit like that and reinvent themselves when they had no need to do that. They were the top band in the world but they still reinvented themselves. The music was just incredible so I felt I needed to pay tribute to it.”

These pictures taken before and during the photoshoot take us back.

 

The Beatles abbey road 1969

The Road before the humble Zebra crossing achieved global fame. Via Beatles Bible

Paul McCartney’s concept sketch of the famous Abbey Road album cover.

Paul McCartney’s concept sketch of the famous Abbey Road album cover – Iain’s addition is top right.

 

Paul’s wife Linda McCartney took some photographs. A policeman stopped the traffic. Iain MacMillan claimed a step ladder and told the band to cross the road. In all he took just six pictures of The Beatles doing something ordinary. And now thousands of fans can walk in their footsteps and replicate the picture at the busy intersection of Abbey Road and Grove End Road.

The fifth person in the pictures is Paul Cole. That’s him stood beneath the tree on the roadside. The American was on holiday with his wife when he spotted “a bunch of kooks” crossing the road. The 1968 Volkswagen was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 1986 to an American collector for £2,530.

“I remember we hired a policeman to hold up traffic while I was up on the ladder taking the pictures. The whole idea, I must say, was Paul McCartney’s. A few days before the shoot, he drew a sketch of how he imagined the cover, which we executed almost exactly that day. I took a couple of shots of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road one way. We let some of the traffic go by and then they walked across the road the other way, and I took a few more shots. The one eventually chosen for the cover was number five of six. It was the only one that had their legs in a perfect ‘V’ formation, which is what I wanted stylistically.”

Iain MacMillan

 

abbey road beatles

Via : Abbey Road

The Abbey Road Webcam can be viewed here

 

 

How to terraform a room-temperature Mars in 100 years

by Christopher P. McKay, Nautilus

Mars is currently inhabited by an estimated 1 million microbes. They coat the surfaces and crowd the innards of our robotic landers and rovers, which international policy requires to be cleaned, but not fully sterilized. The bugs are dormant, but viable. If Mars warmed up and water began to flow again, these microorganisms would revive and reproduce. And it is within our power to make that happen.

The concept of terraforming—making a barren world suitable for widespread life—is well developed in science fiction. The term was first used in a science-fiction story published in 1942. It implies the creation of a copy of Earth, which need not be the goal, but the word caught on. (It is definitely more euphonious than the suggested alternatives of “ecopoiesis” or “planetary ecosynthesis.”) In the ’90s the award-winning science-fiction trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars centered on the science and ethics of terraforming. But terraforming is no longer just science fiction.

Fertile Ground: NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has found biologically essential nitrogen compounds in the sand, dust, and rock of Gale Crater. Photo from NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

I have been fascinated by terraforming for my entire professional life. I feel that, within the natural world, we can find meaning and value in the phenomenon of life. Moreover, we humans are in position to enlarge that value by contributing to the richness and diversity of life in the universe. That begins on Earth with stewardship of life here. But because of the unique capabilities of humans, we can envisage expanding life beyond the Earth. Mars is the first real test of our motivation and ability to do this.

Of all the other worlds in our solar system, only Mars has a realistic potential for terraforming. Our investigations of the planet have shown that it was habitable in the past, so it should have all the ingredients to recover its former glory. The primary challenge is to warm the planet. And warming planets is a technology that we humans are all too good at.

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From what we can tell, Mars has the key materials to construct a biosphere: water, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. Missions over the past decade have established that the high latitudes are rich in water ice, and the Curiosity rover recently detected nitrate in the soil (about 0.03 percent by mass). Carbon dioxide is the main wildcard. Mars may have vast layers of carbonate minerals, but this form of carbon dioxide is not easily released as gas. The success of terraforming would hinge on the south polar cap and the polar soil. They may contain enough carbon dioxide to bulk up the atmosphere only slightly, or they could store enough to create a pressure on Mars equal to the sea-level pressure on Earth.

In the latter case, studies of the climate of Mars indicate that it has two points of stability. Its current climate, with a thin atmosphere, a thick polar cap, and an average surface temperature of –60 degrees Celsius, is stable. But Mars has a second stable climate state, with a thick atmosphere, a thin polar cap, and temperatures of 15 degrees Celsius. That is what makes terraforming Mars feasible. If we could push its climate from the first state to the second, the clement conditions would be self-sustaining.

How would we respond if Mars turns out to have life of its own?

That could happen extremely rapidly. To judge from how quickly our greenhouse emissions are warming Earth, we could shift Mars into a warm climate state within 100 years. The most efficient technique would be to produce supergreenhouse gases such as chlorofluorocarbons or, better, perfluorinated compounds, which are not toxic, do not interfere with the development of an ozone layer, and resist destruction by solar ultraviolet radiation. Curiosity has recently confirmed the presence of fluorine in the rocks on Mars, so the ingredients are all there.

Spiders From Mars: Spidery terrain in the Martian south polar cap results from trapped carbon dioxide gas breaking through the ice sheet, which would become a widespread occurrence if humans tried to terraform the planet. Photo from NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

Once Mars is warm, water will begin to flow across the surface, and an Earth-like hydrological cycle will take hold. Photosynthetic organisms will be able to thrive, and they will turn soil nitrates and perchlorates into nitrogen and oxygen gas. Humans will be able to walk around without a space suit, although they will still need an oxygen mask.

From that point on, the terraforming project will focus on building up the oxygen. For humans to breathe naturally requires oxygen levels above 13 percent and carbon dioxide levels below 1 percent. On Earth, the global biosphere uses sunlight to produce biomass and oxygen with an energy conversion efficiency of 0.01 percent. At that rate, it would take 100,000 years to produce an Earth-like atmosphere on Mars. The 0.01-percent is averaged over oceans, deserts, and forests. The intrinsic efficiency of photosynthesis in terms of a unit leaf is much higher, about 5 percent. If that could be achieved over the entire area of Mars, the timescale becomes a few hundred years. Synthetic biology may be able to speed it up further.

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As is often the case in science, the deciding factors may not be technological, but social and ethical. For instance, how would we respond if Mars turns out to have life of its own? As a first step, we would need to determine how Martian life is related to Earth life. The two might well be the same form of life, having originated on one world and spread to the other by meteorites. That might not affect plans for terraforming.

The situation is thornier if Martian life in unrelated to Earth life and clearly represents a second genesis of life. The motivation for altering Mars would not be creating a new habitat for Earth life, but enhancing the richness and diversity of the indigenous Martian life. Our existing landers and probes would need to be removed or sterilized in place, so that any microbial hitchhikers did not overpower the indigenous organisms like interplanetary kudzu.

Presumably, Martian life would be grateful for a terraformed world that restored the planet to what it once was. But the process would take longer and reach a different endpoint than terraforming a lifeless world, since indigenous microbial life might produce oxygen at a slower rate than Earth transplants, or not at all. Whether Mars becomes an outpost of Earth life or a planet-size wilderness refuge, altering it to host a rich and diverse global biosphere would be one of humanity’s greatest creative achievements.

Christopher P. McKay is a senior scientist with the NASA Ames Research Center. McKay has explored ice-covered lakes in Antarctica, permafrost in the Siberian and Canadian Arctic, and the Atacama, Namib, and Sahara deserts to study life in these extreme environments. He was a co-investigator on the Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005, the Mars Phoenix lander mission in 2008, and the Mars Science Laboratory mission in 2012.

 

The Biggest Wastes Of Time We Regret When We Get Older

There are things we all do, or don’t do, that lead us to waste far more time than we realize in the moment.

 

This is What Your Overactive Brain Needs to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

You already know how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep, but sleeping well helps your brain in less apparent ways than just not being groggy the next day. In fact, getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night can help secure your cognitive well-being.

In the short term, it gives your brain time to flush out refuse matter that builds up–like protein plaques and beta amyloid tangles–through a kind of waste chute called the glymphatic system. And over the long term, that can help stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s. So it pays to know a few tricks and habits to help yourself along to the land of nod. For starters, here’s what to avoid:

No More Nightcaps

It’s all too easy to slip into a routine of having a glass or two of wine each evening, and you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this helps you unwind and sleep better. But what you might not realize is how significantly impaired the quality of your sleep is when you drink.

Alcohol is a depressant and neurotoxin, which means it slows down the central nervous system’s processes by reducing electrical conductivity in the brain. This means that neurons, which send and receive the electrical signals that cause the release of neurotransmitters, operate more slowly. In fact, if you spent the evening drinking and then went to sleep wearing a heart-rate variability monitor, it would show significantly increased levels of stress for your body while you slept.

That’s thanks to the body’s physiological response when it’s trying to break down a toxin, the liver works harder when it should be resting, leading to a stressed state from which you’ll wake up feeling exhausted. Throughout the night, as the liver uses a higher proportion of the body’s energy than usual, the brain is starved of its usual resources and struggles to recuperate effectively for the next day.

Don’t Netflix and Chill

Many people like watching TV to relax after a long workday, and while that might help distract you from your daily worries, it doesn’t prepare your brain for a good night’s rest. Melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep, is released into the bloodstream by the pineal gland. But darkness triggers the gland to start working, and it gets confused by the blue light that most screens emit.

Many people have heard of this issue when it comes to their smartphones, but it may not be enough to set aside just that device and not others. Even reading an e-book on a tablet or certain kinds of e-reader, or just watching ordinary television, can be potentially problematic. Try reading paper books and make sure you stop looking at all your devices’ screens for at least an hour before you hit the hay.

(Not sure what to do instead? For what it’s worth, sexual intimacy leads to the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin, which makes you feel comfortable and lowers your guard–helping to ease you into a good night’s sleep.)

Skip the Late-Night Snack

Eating a large, heavy meal is also a bad idea, especially acidic, spicy, or fatty foods, which can actively stimulate the brain. Certain foods like bacon and preserved meats, soy sauce, some cheeses, nuts, tomatoes, and red wine contain a chemical called tyramine, which causes the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that boosts brain activity. Even some milky drinks, which many believe to be sleep-inducing, contain high quantities of sugar that can also keep you up. So make sure you check the label and choose your dinner carefully.

Now that you’ve cut these habits from your evening routine, what should you add to it instead? Here are a few good options for improving both the quality of your sleep and reducing the time it takes your brain to power down for the night.

Photo by Léonard Cotte via Unsplash.

Smell Some Lavender

Lavender is a powerful neuromodulator, which means that it lowers your blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, making you more relaxed and likelier to fall asleep. Smell has a powerful and immediate impact on emotion and mood because of the proximity of the olfactory nerve (which contains the sensory nerve fibers relating to smell) to the brain.

There’s also an associative quality to regularly smelling lavender before you sleep. If you make this a habit, it will signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down (once you’ve established this association, you can tap into it on the road, too; just throw some lavender in your travel bag). If you don’t like lavender, jasmine is a good alternative and can produce similar effects.

Drink Nut Milk With Turmeric

Rather than buying a powdered milky drink that’s high in sugar, you can make your own relaxing bedtime drink using a nut milk, like almond, which is full of magnesium. Magnesium helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol and calms the nervous system.

As a secret ingredient, add turmeric, whose powerful anti-inflammatory properties can prevent nighttime stomach problems that might interrupt your sleep (and which have even been implicated in preventing dementia). If you want to sweeten your drink, use Manuka honey rather than sugar to help boost your immunity.

Photo by Flickr user DenisenFamily.

Have a Soak

Circadian rhythms are our bodies’ series of physical, mental, and behavioral changes. They follow a roughly 24-hour cycle and depend primarily on how bright our environment is. Because of these rhythms, our body temperature automatically dips a couple of degrees at night, causing us to feel sleepy.

So when you take a hot bath–ideally 60–90 minutes before bedtime–your body temperature rises, but the rapid, steeper cool-down period immediately afterward relaxes you. And since the best way to increase your magnesium levels is actually through your skin, you can try adding magnesium salts to your bath to decrease cortisol levels. You should also make sure your bedroom isn’t too hot and stuffy once you get out of the bath. A cooler room can help reduce your body heat by the couple of degrees needed to drift off.

While falling asleep might seem like a passive process, there’s a whole cocktail of neurotransmitters involved in it, including histamine, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine. But that means there are many physiological “levers” you can pull on your way to a better night’s sleep. Get your evening routine right, and you’ll be able to enjoy the spoils that come with it–better concentration, memory, and moods, enhanced creativity, and reduced inflammation and stress.

Dr. Tara Swart is a neuroscientist, leadership coach, author, and medical doctor. Follow her on Twitter at @TaraSwart.

One Thing Steve Jobs Did at Apple That Will Instantly Improve Your Productivity

Busy Work

So, if we are going to talk about productivity we need to get one thing straight from the outset; busy does not equate to productive.

Try this experiment; go around for a day and ask colleagues, “So, what did you do today?” Most of the answers will be along the lines of, “A lot, it was a busy day; non-stop action, meetings, phone calls, the usual!”

That kind of question and answer tells me nothing about what was actually achieved. If anything it proves the point that being busy is often such a distraction that it obscures what we actually may have achieved.

But there is one question that will instantly give you a sense for how productive anyone is and set the bar for increasing productivity, “What did you achieve today!”

Think about this for a minute. What did you achieve yesterday, the day before? Not so easy is it? We like to think of achievement as something we do over long periods of time, monthly, quarterly, yearly, but not daily. Yet, if you set the expectation that each day should include a defined achievement, let’s call it an “achievement goal,” then you are creating a nearly instant metric for how productive each day will be and you are taking direct personal responsibility for that goal’s achievement.

“That love affair with focus drove Apple’s success, it minimized distraction, and it articulated in clear terms what the metric of success would be.”

Taking a Bite of the Apple

Steve Jobs used to do this at Apple on a larger scale at the company’s yearly strategy meetings. As recounted by his biographer, Walter Isaacson, Jobs would start by soliciting dozens of yearly objectives from his staff and then successively pare them down until he had only three left. These three became the compass setting for what the company needed to achieve in the following year. That love affair with focus drove Apple’s success, it minimized distraction, and it articulated in clear terms what the metric of success would be. Everything else either supported those goals or was secondary.

In addition, Apple had a policy of assigning what was called, in Apple-speak, a DRI, the directly Responsible Individual. A DRI, as described by

One Day at a Time

The purpose of having a daily achievement goal is to use these same strategies of intense focus and clear responsibility to drive your actions on a daily basis.

Are there days you might not accomplish your achievement goal? Of course, otherwise you’re not setting the bar high enough. However, to maximize your chances of success set your achievement goal at the end of each day for the following day. The reasons are simple; you’ll be able to sleep better at night once you have determined what you need to accomplish the next day, sleeping on one critical objective will tune your mind into the many nuances of how you can achieve it, and most importantly, you can start the next day off with a clear objective–no need to waste time each morning trying to shuffle all of the inevitable email priorities that have accumulated overnight.

“The purpose of having a daily achievement goal is to use these same strategies of intense focus and clear responsibility to drive your actions on a daily basis.”

Have no illusions, this is a rigorous approach that will not always sit well with your team. Humans have a nearly instinctive drive to deal with urgency over strategy, it’s how we survived in caves and jungles for millennia. But that same strategy works against us when we are building towards a long-term vision because the near-term distractions obscure our view of the long-term goal. However, if you apply this level of strategic rigor and discipline to how you structure each day I can guarantee that at least three things will start to happen:

  1. You will train yourself and those who work with you to focus on what is critical rather than what is urgent. The two may sometimes be the same, but most often urgency trumps critical because it is harder to say “no” to an urgent request if you do not have a clear priority in place. That doesn’t mean that you will be 100% unyielding to rational argument, but that you will stop and weigh your options before jumping into every urgent request.
  2. You will minimize the impact of distractions by deciding ahead of time what your focus needs to be. Over time you will prove to yourself and to your team that a strategic approach to dealing with each day creates much more value than constantly tending to distractions.
  3. You will end each day with a sense of accomplishment. As that becomes habit you will become addicted to setting the next day’s achievement goal; over time the habit will become a source of ongoing satisfaction as you track your accomplishments.

The bottom line is that the expectations we set for ourselves, and those we work with, are not the results of productivity; they are what fuels it.

Now—stop reading—go achieve something today!