In The Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin doesn't offer much in the way of cultural analysis of the origins of anti-vax hysteria. He does provide glimpses of iIn The Panic Virus, Seth Mnookin doesn't offer much in the way of cultural analysis of the origins of anti-vax hysteria. He does provide glimpses of insight into the psychosocial bases, e.g., by touching on the “disgust response” invoked by early vaccination practices; and hinting that societies facing increasingly bureaucratic and/or secretive governance, like the 1950s US, are primed to mistrust powerful entities including government and the pharmaceutical industry. He also brings up in passing the relatively young field of behavioral economics, pointing out the cognitive biases at play in the paranoid reactionism of anti-vaxxers. But mostly he delivers a more or less straightforward history of the movement, and that is damning enough on its own.
Though he is clearly on the side of science, Mnookin is careful to report on instances when practitioners of the vaccine movement have made disastrous missteps by concealing data (e.g., a 1-in-a-million risk of contracting polio from the vaccine) when faced with the potential repercussions - backlashes that would shut down a vaccine program and allow mass morbidity and preventable mortality - in the midst of particular epidemics. Of course, the repercussions are so tinged with extremism because of the anti-vax appeal to emotion. With this in mind, it's somewhat understandable that public health influencers have shut their mouths; the fallout, however, has been a long-term slow but significant growth of the anti-vax movement that now in America is leading to infant pertussis outbreaks and deaths. So what should be done, when a small but loud portion of society refuses to participate in the activities that keep society as a whole safe? The establishment and re-establishment of mandatory vaccination laws is the most immediate counter to this insanity; whether it will work or further fuel the fire of the movement is yet to be seen.
Pro-science vaccine advocates will find plenty of juicy details to stoke their own fires in Mnookin's history. One of my personal favorites is the story of how anti-vaxxers respond to actual scientific studies with their own attempts at empirical evidence (this was before they realized that no one with a scientific background is fooled, and it's much easier to appeal to the vast population of parents with emotional logic); the sculpting of nonsense as a foil for science is amusing -- and troubling, since credible journals have published it. And here I think is the biggest mistake we have made: Wakefield's NEJM publication based on complete garbage STILL convinces people that the MMR vaccine -- which, incidentally, has never contained thimerosal -- causes autism.
The appeal to emotion that has turned out to work best for the anti-vaxxers begs a second look at George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. We who stand with science need to look at language as a way to retool the pro-science argument. But perhaps this is disrespectful to science itself -- why should we have to debate what is true with people who function within a fantastical paradigm? As Mnookin points out, those who have decided to believe something are inclined to believe it more when faced with the evidence against it, and to seek out the company of those who already agree with them. The key may then be to target people before they become new and anxious parents, in these days when a quick Internet search seems to provide equivalence in size and power between the pro- and anti-vaccine arguments. I think this education should start with compulsory scientific literacy courses in high school -- or even earlier. When the choice becomes enforcing mass vaccination that comes with a negligible amount of unavoidable side effects, or buckling to pressure from loud advocacy groups by rescinding vaccination that will precipitate preventable deaths of children, we have to step up to the plate to protect the vulnerable -- now....more
Hallowell breaks down 6 distracted employee types, including technology addicts, multitaskers who can't say no, idea people who can't follow through,Hallowell breaks down 6 distracted employee types, including technology addicts, multitaskers who can't say no, idea people who can't follow through, those who do for others before themselves, worriers and those with clinical ADHD. The greatest thing about this book is how Hallowell creates a fictitious sufferer of each of his types, allegedly an amalgam of people he's counseled or interviewed. It's great because Hallowell clearly enjoys creating these personas, who have remarkably detailed backstories and habits and body types. They have passionate and revealing fights with their spouses, and their work personality is always a result of their childhood, with particular incidents spelled out. Methinks someone wanted to write a novel! So those are amusing.
The rest of it, though, not so much; he lists the pros and dangers of being each type of person (yawn), describing their qualities in a metric he created that doesn't really serve any useful purpose, and then at the end of each type section gives 10 usually limp and often repetitive tips for enhancing your focus. Nothing novel here: being told you need structure isn't enough of an answer for someone who needs structure. Being told to make three daily, three biweekly, and three long-term goals and check in with them regularly isn't going to work for people who need to do that -- they need a WORKBOOK. A little better are his hints for discovering what matters to you if you are an idea person who can't choose what to focus ON (e.g., make lists in funky fonts, large letters or colors). So there's some insight here, but I can't imagine really applying his techniques, especially since they don't stick in my head whatsoever....more
The vivid description of how Michael Rockefeller might have died was too unsettling for me. I didn't think we should be quite so ... romantic about itThe vivid description of how Michael Rockefeller might have died was too unsettling for me. I didn't think we should be quite so ... romantic about it....more
Some of the more direct and honest adive for writers I've read, plus the pleasure of reading about Stephen King's childhood, made this a great experieSome of the more direct and honest adive for writers I've read, plus the pleasure of reading about Stephen King's childhood, made this a great experience. He narrates the excellent audiobook. I really enjoyed hearing about his life, from his comics manufacturing business as a child, to the Rock Bottom Remainders, his hilarious band with Amy Tan, Dave Barry and a rotating host of other writers, to his horrific accident. I'm not a big reader of King's novels, but this book gave me an appreciation for his love of the horror genre and his abilities. I like that he is such a storyteller he can't just write a straight advice book; the advice is all wound into the story of his own experience. I expect that's more useful anyhow!
A few things I loved:
* "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." In other words, get real! If you want to write, you have to put in the time. DO IT.
* "Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open," i.e., first drafts are for getting it out of your system and onto paper. Revisions are where you need to axe your preciousness and force your work to appeal to an external audience. Every word.
* An example of a short profile he wrote for his first writing job for his school newspaper, and how his editor changed it. This is vital information!
* You can make an adequate writer into a good writer, but a bad writer will not become a good writer, and a good writer will not become a great writer. Those are born, not made. (I found this a relief.)
Things I took minor issue with:
* King doesn't understand why a professional writer would only have a few books published over their lifetime. (If they are really writers, they should be constantly prolific and published!) I'm not convinced. Not every writer has the output of King, Oates, Rendell. I don't think anyone would argue that Marilyn Robinson isn't a very fine writer, and she has published only a handful of novels.
* He says adverbs, and words that replace "said" are almost always terrible. I disagree. I've had too many arguments with my husband over misunderstandings of tone when communicating via text or chat to believe that a writer can always be able to convey tone without these modifiers. I don't ALWAYS know if a character is joking, or sarcastic, or lying, if I'm not told; and, unless it is meant to be ambiguous, I thin it's fair for the writer to convey how they want dialogue and its speakers to be interpreted. I agree they should probably be used sparingly, except in humor writing, where they are required.
While I appreciate the idea of a method in between "cry it out" and "deal with it", I was infuriated by Pantley's inclusion of a speculative descriptiWhile I appreciate the idea of a method in between "cry it out" and "deal with it", I was infuriated by Pantley's inclusion of a speculative description of the agony a child might be feeling as they cry it out (e.g., "His little body is burning with desire and utter loneliness" - I'm paraphrasing, but that is exactly the tone.) You can't use that manipulative, mean tactic AND say that (a) that you're offering a moderate option or (b) that whatever works for a family is what's best. I'm not wild about letting my baby cry it out, and it doesn't always work, but I'm not going to tolerate being judged for trying it, or judge everyone for whom it has been a lifesaving technique. This reminds me of the "breastfeeding Nazis" and other women (and men) who say that mothers who go back to work are selfish and hurting the baby, or that you have to feed solids to (or not, or wean, or not, or take away or give the pacifier or lovey, etc.) at a certain point. I'm not sure why everyone insists on being so harsh judging (other) parents. Every child, every family, every situation is different. If you watch the documentary "Babies," you'll see that children raised with incredibly different styles are all still doing about the same things at 1 year. Yet everyone is sure that everything you do or don't do before, during, and post-pregnancy will completely ruin your child's life.
I couldn't continue reading this book, and anyway the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon clearly summarize her points, and indicate that this is nothing new. Picking up my baby, calming her, and trying to put her down is what I'm already doing instinctively. I'm not going to start obsessing about every detail of the sleep pattern of someone who changes constantly. I'm happy for everyone this book has helped, but I cannot abide the guilt-tripping flavor of this book....more
Venkatesh offers a rare glimpse into the lives of tenants and gang members at Chicago's Robert Taylor projects in the heyday of the Black Kings' crackVenkatesh offers a rare glimpse into the lives of tenants and gang members at Chicago's Robert Taylor projects in the heyday of the Black Kings' crack-dealing reign there (and the heyday of crack-dealing gangs all over, in the late 80s and early 90s). What struck me most about his adventures was learning that the police and politicians really were/are as corrupt and intertwined with the gangs as TV would have you believe. And that means that the odds of good prospects for poor black people in those communities really are ridiculously stacked against them. Choice: work a dead-end job (or two, or three) and go to school and somehow manage to support a family while the gangs and the tenant leader of your building skim off all your earnings in exchange for "protection" and housing-related services that middle class Americans would never consider less than a right, or anyone else's business anyway (example: to have a broken door replaced, a couple at Robert Taylor can't just call a handyman or buy a replacement themselves -- they have to pay the tenant leader to appeal to the Housing Association; pay the gang to watch their apartment while it is vulnerable; pay to stay with other tenants, etc, etc) -- or join the gang, deal crack and make a lot more money. The other major interesting point to me was the history of the female-led economy in the communities before the gangs stepped in and took it over by threat. What a hopeless place. Anyway, 3 stars because it was pretty good, but I wish Venkatesh had offered more potential solutions, and the title is a bit misleading - his stint as "gang leader" is pretty banal.
I advise against listening to this audiobook -- read it instead. Reg Rogers is the wrong choice for narrator. With his metallic, dramatic voice, he gives young, hippy Sudhir an inappropriately panache sound. He practically rolls his r's. ...more
Fantastic Kindle Single addressing Patchett's experience with becoming and being a writer. Contains some of the most reassuring and straightforward wrFantastic Kindle Single addressing Patchett's experience with becoming and being a writer. Contains some of the most reassuring and straightforward writing advice I've read. Also loved her descriptions of the three writing teachers who influenced her the most ( I had no idea Allan Gurganis was one of her writing profs). I highlighted all the books and stories and authors she recommended and can't wait to read them!...more
I did get (reminded of and for the first time) some solid science trivia out of The Canon, and I do think it does what Angier set out to do: give an oI did get (reminded of and for the first time) some solid science trivia out of The Canon, and I do think it does what Angier set out to do: give an overview of the foundations of the "hard" sciences. Angier also brings a great whimsy to the book and discusses why science isn't just for kids, but can be fun and exciting even after the years of school science projects. I did appreciate that. But the CONSTANT wordplay that Angier engages in, and clearly finds enormously clever and witty, wears thin very quickly, making it a slog, and a groaner....more
This book is narrative journalism at its finest. Cullen remains neutral and respectful (no photos here) and delicately navigates the effect the tragedThis book is narrative journalism at its finest. Cullen remains neutral and respectful (no photos here) and delicately navigates the effect the tragedy has on the town. In chapters alternating between the time leading up to the massacre and in its wake, Cullen shows how rumors spread, where the media was and wasn't culpable for these, how police are trained to respond to terrorist and hostage events and how Columbine changed that. I was interested to learn that Eric and Dylan were NOT social outcasts, nor were they previously known as "the Trenchcoat Mafia"; that both boys were almost off-the-charts intelligent; and that Dylan was actually a hopeless romantic constantly searching for love. He did very little actual shooting. ...more
I listened to this on audiobook, and was very engaged. Mothers (and mothers-to-be) suffer a great deal of disapproval -- and even outright attacks --I listened to this on audiobook, and was very engaged. Mothers (and mothers-to-be) suffer a great deal of disapproval -- and even outright attacks -- from others, especially other women (with or without children). Waldman very honestly discusses the expectations mothers have and how these expectations are impossible to fulfill (versus those of being a "good father": be reasonably present and supportive of mom and children). She delves into very personal material, such as the devastating choice to terminate a pregnancy of a child with a rare trisomy. She has taken a lot of flack for an essay about sex after children because she stated that she loved her husband more than her children. All very interesting. I think it's important to realize the ridiculous pressure on women who have children and make an effort to reduce it -- or at least MYOB....more
Not as fun, nor as intense, as The Hot Zone, this collection of essays, most of which were originally published in The New Yorker, nevertheless entertNot as fun, nor as intense, as The Hot Zone, this collection of essays, most of which were originally published in The New Yorker, nevertheless entertains. I admit to being most interested in the ebola essay and the one about Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (parts of which made me laugh out loud, much to my relief, since this terrible disease mostly afflicts young boys and I was afraid I couldn't handle it). I could not get into, and skipped, the tree-infestation piece, and was underwhelmed by the essay on the Russian mathematicians looking for a pattern in pi, and the piece later in which they return to mathematically solve assembly of high-def photographs of the famous Unicorn tapestries. It seemed like a random mish-mash of essay topics and lengths, when the title made me assume I was starting a collection of disease/public health topics. The Lesch-Nyhan piece is the only one I can totally recommend....more
Surprisingly well-written account of Jentz's attempt to uncover the truth behind her 1977 attack in Oregon by a man with a hatchet. Nothing overly gruSurprisingly well-written account of Jentz's attempt to uncover the truth behind her 1977 attack in Oregon by a man with a hatchet. Nothing overly gruesome or overwrought here, just fascinating, straightforward detective work. I was pretty heartbroken that Jentz was unable to share her experience with the other girl in the attack, who did not remember it and did not want to. Amazing how little actual investigation was really done at the time. With the statute of limitations on attempted murder at just 3 years at the time in Oregon, Jentz's case could be pivotal for making changes to the system (but I'm not done yet so I don't know!). Scary stuff, sociopaths, but there's a lot of empathy and humanity here to make up for it....more