Making the right choice does not always lead to a good outcome—sometimes there are only bad outcomes to choose from

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Albania is a country in the Balkans that has a long history of patriarchal traditions. Albania is traditionally a patricentric society, so having sons in the family is very important. When a family does not have sons, or loses their sons, then a sworn virgin can be a suitable replacement.

A sworn virgin is a woman who, either at birth, or by her own choice, decides to take on male gender roles. The sworn virgin makes a vow of chastity, does traditionally male labor, and usually wears male styled clothing. The vow of becoming a sworn virgin means that the woman no longer has marital obligations, the woman can become the head of her own household and would then have rights to inheritance. One of the main causes that make taking the vow necessary for Albanian families is the power of the Kanun. The Kanun is a medieval code of rules that are the foundation of Albanian culture. Many of the rules focus on honor and regulate the community life.

The Kanun regulates all aspects of Albanian life. The Kanun focuses on aspects of familial honor. A major part of this idea results in “blood feuds.” Blood feuds are deadly feuds between families. A blood feud can start from an insult or theft; they serve the purpose of righting a perceived wrong, honor being more important that a human life. When families become enemies “the enemy family’s honor can only be repaired with more blood. Any male member of the…family tall enough to lift a rifle is a legitimate target.” If a woman is murdered, according to the code, her death can be avenged by killing a woman in the enemy family of killing their dog.

The Kanun has specific rules for the role of women in Albania, perpetuating male dominance in a patriarchal society. Albania has roots as a peasant society where gender roles are very significant. The man is the head of the family, the owner and over seer of the land and the main decision maker. The importance of gender roles and the man’s position of power breed the desire for a passive and compliant woman. According to the article by Arsovska, the Kanun states, “a man has the right to beat and publicly humiliate his wife if she disobeys him. He is also allowed to cut her hair, strip her nude, expel her from the house and drive her with a whip through the village. The Kanun specifies that a man may kill his wife for two reasons: infidelity and betrayal of hospitality.” Further, a woman is considered half of a man, equivalent to a dog and always subservient to her husband or father before she is married.

[…]

In a situation where all the male family members are killed during a blood feud, the family would be destitute, or an unmarried daughter can take the vow to be a sworn virgin. The sworn virgin would then be the head of the household, have rights to the inheritance and be in charge of retaliation of the blood feud. Women are also forbidden from being an active participant in their engagements and marriages. If the woman does not want to marry the man she is arranged to be married to and runs away, her family would bring her back to the man with a single bullet. The meaning of the bullet is if the wife tries to leave again the husband can kill her with the bullet. Some women receive a locket with a bullet inside on their wedding day, the bullet being the bullet she would be killed with if she were to be unfaithful or try to leave her husband. The only honorable way for a woman to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage would be to take the vow. If a woman refuses an arranged marriage it could incite a blood feud between the two houses. Another reason some women take the vow to become a sworn virgin is if their parents do not produce a son. It is considered shameful if a family has no male offspring and some girls will be raised as boys from birth. All cases of a female becoming a sworn virgin have to do with familial honor.

The vow to become a sworn virgin is not to be taken lightly. The vow is considered sacred and is meant for life. The woman making the vow goes before twelve elders of the community and makes a vow of chastity. The traditional punishment for breaking the vow is death. If a sworn virgin is found to break her vow of celibacy she would traditionally be burned alive, although it is unrecorded how often this punishment gets carried out.

[…]

A sworn virgin is able to enjoy the status of being a man, they are able to interact freely with men, smoke cigarettes, carry guns and leave their houses without a male escort.

[…]

The role of the sworn virgin should not be considered lesbianism, as the traditional role of sexual intercourse in Albania is strictly for procreation. Homosexuality was illegal for men in Albania until 1995, and lesbians have never been mentioned in the Kanun or by the state, which would imply that it is a completely foreign or non existent concept to traditional Albanians.

[…]

Even as a sworn virgin, there are times when they are still discriminated against by men and still treated as less than a man. One sworn virgin was not able to become a member of a marksmen club, and another example is of a sworn virgin who, after their death, was buried as a man but did not receive the traditional mourning that men usually receive.

[…]

It is unknown how many sworn virgins are still in existence today, as the post communist Albanian government does not recognize tradition rules from the Kanun. A ‘cultural revolution’ took place in Albania in 1974, declaring all traditional customs as non-existent, so there is no new official records kept of women that take the vow.

{ Elizabeth Rush, The Cultural Role and Identity of Albanian Sworn Virgins | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Picasso, Femme en bleu, 1944 }

quote { The lesser of two evils: Explaining a bad choice by revealing the choice set }

Newman and I are reversing the peepholes on our door so you can see in

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An electronic synapse that fires millions of times faster than the ones in your brain could be used to build artificial neural networks.

[…]

A clinical trial of drugs called mTOR inhibitors found that they boosted elderly people’s immune systems, potentially extending their life spans. Another trial in progress is testing senolytics, drugs that eliminate the senescent cells that make aging bodies break down.
[…]

A team that built a brain-to-brain communication device in 2015 has now expanded it to three people, paving the way for larger groups to transmit thoughts directly to one another.

[…]

An ordinary smartphone can be used to track people on the other side of a solid wall by detecting how their movements distort the signals from any Wi-Fi transmitters in the area.

{ Technology Review | Continue reading }

image { Google hires camel for desert Street View, 2014 }

P.P., don’t carry that weight

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Active, polymorphic material (“Utility Fog”) can be designed as a conglomeration of 100-micron robotic cells (‘foglets’). Such robots could be built with the techniques of molecular nanotechnology […] The Fog acts as a continuous bridge between actual physical reality and virtual reality.

{ NASA | Continue reading }

photo { Joel Meyerowitz, Times Square, New York City, 1963 }

Can I tell them that I never really had a gun?

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From 1427 to 1435, Gilles de Rais (1405 – 1440) served as a commander in the Royal Army, and fought alongside Joan of Arc against the English and their Burgundian allies during the Hundred Years’ War.

In 1434/1435, he retired from military life, depleted his wealth by staging an extravagant theatrical spectacle of his own composition, and was accused of dabbling in the occult.

After 1432, he was accused of engaging in a series of child murders, with victims possibly numbering in the hundreds. The killings came to an end in 1440, when a violent dispute with a clergyman led to an ecclesiastical investigation which brought the crimes to light, and attributed them to Gilles. He was condemned to death and hanged at Nantes on 26 October 1440.

Gilles de Rais is believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale “Bluebeard” (”Barbe bleue”) by Charles Perrault.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading | Watch: Georges Méliès, Barbe Bleue, 1901 }

Where does the white go when the snow melts?

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Salmon sushi was introduced to Japan by the Norwegians in 1986

[…]

You are 44% more likely to die if you have surgery on a Friday (1.44% chance) compared to a Monday (1.00% chance). The likelihood of death jumps 82% compared to Monday if you have surgery on the weekend.

[…]

The State of Wyoming Has 2 Escalators

[…]

When women are ovulating, they are (unknowingly) much less likely to call their dads, and when their dads call them, they end the conversation more quickly. However, they’re more likely to call their moms, and the phone conversations last longer.

[…]

Recent seminal works on human mobility have shown that individuals constantly exploit a small set of repeatedly visited locations. The number of familiar locations an individual visits at any point is a conserved quantity with a typical size of ~25.

[…]

The surface area of human lungs is as big as a tennis court […]

You can say “ding dong” but not “dong ding,” “zig zag” but not “zag zig,” and “flip flop” but not “flop flip.” The same strict word order applies to tick tock, riff raff, ping pong, King Kong, wishy washy, etc. This is the rule of ablaut reduplication: if there are two words, the first is i and the second is either a or o. If there are three words, then the order is i, a, o.

{ 52 Things I Learned in 2018 | Continue reading }

image { a performance/installation Warhol did for the now-defunct Finch College Museum of Art, in New York in February of 1972. The project consisted of Warhol vacuuming the gallery rug and then displaying the vacuum and its signed dust bag in the gallery that he’d cleaned. | Blake Gopnik }

Every day, the same, again

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Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity

Swiss hotel chain offers a ‘social media sitter’ to handle your Instagram while you relax

How and when taking pictures undermines the enjoyment of experiences [Related: How the Intention to Share Can Undermine Enjoyment | PDF and How Taking Photos Increases Enjoyment of Experiences | PDF]

Delivery robot spontaneously bursts into flames

Do you believe that people’s eyes emit an invisible beam of force? According to a rather fun paper in PNAS, you probably do.

Person evaluation is strongly influenced by untrustworthy gossip

picking the ‘wrong’ name can make a huge difference to your sales figures (drug-naming study)

Forgetting in order to Remember Better (we find that the interference of informations limits the capacity of human memory, which is the “magic number seven”.)

Physics explains why time passes faster as you age

A musician had an operation in South Africa to remove most of a brain tumor—and played the guitar while it was happening.

There is now a mental health clinic inside a Walmart Supercenter

Executing Someone Who Does Not Remember the Crime [Argument Session, US Supreme Court | audio]

Can a Corpse Give Birth? Why a dead woman was kept on life support against her wishes. [NY Times]

American suicides are now at their highest point in 50 years. It’s the second-leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 35.

A teenage girl is more at risk of developing mental health problems if her father has experienced post-natal depression, according to research

Google Has a Plan to Eliminate Mosquitoes Worldwide

Self-exciting Risk Modeling for Predicting Next Locations of Serial Crimes

A 30-Year Plan to Transform the Courts [audio] More: The Federalist Society has reached an unprecedented peak of power and influence. Having allies on the highest court of the land is just the top layer of the Federalist Society’s expanding sway. The next most important segment of the judiciary — the federal appeals courts — is also filling up with Federalist Society members: Twenty-five of the 30 appeals court judges Trump has appointed are or were members of the society. [Washington Post]

The choice of information structures must be subject to some limits, otherwise, of course, each agent would simply observe the entire state of the world. The Cost of Information

“Financial markets have significantly evolved over the past decade, driven by new technologies, and the market itself is becoming more difficult to anticipate as traditional participants are imperceptibly replaced by computerised models.” Hedge Funds Have Lost Their Rhythm

The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain

The bar graph was first invented in 1786 and little has changed in its format. Here, a replacement for the bar graph, called a hat graph, is proposed.

Clarence King—who was a renowned explorer, the first director of the United States Geological Survey, and one of the most famous Americans of the nineteenth century—conducted a secret double life in which he passed for black. [The Best Facts I Learned from Books in 2018 ]

The artist targeted five prominent New York museums that have rejected his work—the Metropolitan, Guggenheim, Museum of Modern art, New Museum, and Whitney—arguing that they are part of a cabal to eliminate competition in the art market.

back! more soon!


‘It is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that life and existence are eternally justified.’ —Nietzsche

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Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes.

We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre.

Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. […]

Our research not only reinforces past work showing that people often fail to distinguish between fact and fiction in learning about the world, but also illustrates that the lessons of fiction may not be what they seem. […] Rather than creating political cynicism in readers and viewers or showing them that girls can be powerful too—both lessons that are at this point probably amply supplied by the American news media and lived experience—dystopian fiction seems to be teaching them a more subtle and perhaps more concerning message: that violence and illegal activities may be both legitimate and necessary to pursue justice. Dystopian fiction appears to subtly expand the political imagination of viewers and readers to encompass a range of scenarios outside the normal realm of democratic politics, and what people then consider reasonable and thinkable appears to expand accordingly.

These results should also highlight the peril for political scientists in assuming that fiction is just entertainment. The stories we tell ourselves have profound implications for how we think about political ethics and political possibilities, and as scholars of politics, we can and should do more to map out the effects of politically-inflected fiction and entertainment.

{ Cambridge Core | Continue reading }

still { Harriet Andersson in Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika, 1953 }

‘A happy memory is perhaps on this earth truer than happiness itself.’ –Alfred de Musset

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This research examined eroticism and nurturance among individuals in polyamorous and monogamous relationships.

As expected, polyamorous participants experienced less eroticism but more nurturance in their relationships with their primary partner compared to secondary.

Furthermore, people in polyamorous relationships reported more nurturance with primary partners and eroticism with secondary partners compared to people in monogamous relationships.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

Rolls-Royce radiator mascot { Charles Sykes, Spirit of Ecstasy, 1910 }

Plus, we had a dozen guys up there, most of them ex-cheats, who knew every trick in the house

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McCarthy successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1946. After three largely undistinguished years in the Senate, McCarthy rose suddenly to national fame in February 1950 when he asserted in a speech that he had a list of “members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring” who were employed in the State Department. […] At the time of McCarthy’s speech, communism was a significant concern in the United States. […]

McCarthy presented a case-by-case analysis of his 81 “loyalty risks” employed at the State Department. It is widely accepted that most of McCarthy’s cases were selected from the so-called “Lee list”, a report that had been compiled three years earlier for the House Appropriations Committee. Led by a former FBI agent named Robert E. Lee, the House investigators had reviewed security clearance documents on State Department employees, and had determined that there were “incidents of inefficiencies” in the security reviews of 108 employees. McCarthy hid the source of his list, stating that he had penetrated the “iron curtain” of State Department secrecy with the aid of “some good, loyal Americans in the State Department”. In reciting the information from the Lee list cases, McCarthy consistently exaggerated, representing the hearsay of witnesses as facts and converting phrases such as “inclined towards Communism” to “a Communist”. […]

In response to McCarthy’s charges, the Senate voted unanimously to investigate. […] From its beginning, the Tydings Committee was marked by partisan infighting. Its final report, written by the Democratic majority, concluded that the individuals on McCarthy’s list were neither Communists nor pro-communist, and said the State Department had an effective security program. […] The full Senate voted three times on whether to accept the report, and each time the voting was precisely divided along party lines. […]

McCarthy also began investigations into the numerous homosexuals [homosexuality was prohibited by law at the time] working in the foreign policy bureaucracy, who were considered prime candidates for blackmail by the Soviets. […]

One of the strongest bases of anti-Communist sentiment in the United States was the Catholic community, which constituted over 20% of the national vote. McCarthy identified himself as Catholic, and although the great majority of Catholics were Democrats, as his fame as a leading anti-Communist grew, he became popular in Catholic communities across the country, with strong support from many leading Catholics, diocesan newspapers, and Catholic journals. […]

McCarthy established a bond with the powerful Kennedy family, which had high visibility among Catholics. McCarthy became a close friend of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., himself a fervent anti-Communist, and was a frequent guest at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. He dated two of Kennedy’s daughters, Patricia and Eunice. […]

Robert Kennedy was chosen by McCarthy as a counsel for his investigatory committee, but resigned after six months due to disagreements with McCarthy and Committee Counsel Roy Cohn [As McCarthy’s chief counsel, Cohn came to be closely associated with McCarthyism and its downfall. He is also noted for representing and mentoring Donald J. Trump during his early business career. Cohn was disbarred by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court for unethical conduct in 1986, dying five weeks later from AIDS.]

Unlike many Democrats, John F. Kennedy, who served in the Senate with McCarthy from 1953 until the latter’s death in 1957, never attacked McCarthy. McCarthy had refused to campaign for Kennedy’s 1952 opponent, Republican incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., due to his friendship with the Kennedys. […]

Journalist Richard Rovere (1959) wrote: “McCarthy had always been a heavy drinker, and there were times in those seasons of discontent when he drank more than ever. But he was not always drunk. He went on the wagon (for him this meant beer instead of whiskey) for days and weeks at a time. The difficulty toward the end was that he couldn’t hold the stuff. He went to pieces on his second or third drink. And he did not snap back quickly.”

McCarthy had also become addicted to heroin. Harry J. Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, became aware of McCarthy’s addiction in the 1950s, and demanded he stop using the drug. McCarthy refused.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

photo { Miron Zownir, NYC, 1983 }

Every day, the same, again

32.jpg Factory robot impales worker with 10 foot-long steel spikes after malfunction

Parrot uses owner’s Amazon Alexa to order shopping, play music

When faking your own death to get out of catering a wedding is not fraud

Child sex dolls seized by Canadian border agents

Boys experience their first ejaculation (thorarche) during adolescence + Thelarche is the onset of secondary (postnatal) breast development, usually occurring at the beginning of puberty in girls + Menarche

Breastfeeding Greater Than 6 Months Is Associated with Smaller Maternal Waist Circumference Up to One Decade After Delivery

Can Humans Really Discriminate 1 Trillion Odors? (The paper’s extravagant claims are based on errors of mathematical logic.)

Physical activity in the evening does not cause sleep problems

Sleep selectively stabilizes contextual aspects of negative memories

The human brain needs to suppress obvious ideas in order to reach the most creative ones. A new study shows that brainwaves play a crucial role in inhibiting habitual thinking modes to pave the way to access more remote ideas.

Research shows that when a nonprofit receives a donation, its views on rules and legislation magically line up with the donor’s. 

The project consisted of Warhol vacuuming the gallery rug and then displaying the vacuum and its signed dust bag in the gallery that he’d cleaned

The Business of Selling Your Location More: Facebook Filed A Patent To Calculate Your Future Location

These Portraits Were Made by AI: None of These People Exist

Advertisers place a single brown pixel on a bright background in a mobile ad. It looks like dust, so users try to wipe it off. That registers as a click, and the user is taken to the homepage. [52 things I learned in 2018]

Should I buy bitcoin (Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island). Should I delete facebook (Washington). Should I cut my hair (Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio). The Most-Googled “Should I” Question State by State

There Are Now More Shows Streaming Than There Are on Broadcast or Cable

Marriott, like the other big hotel companies, owns very few of its own hotels these days. Marriott is actually a family of 30 hotel brands, many of them virtually indistinguishable. What’s the business logic?

NASA Research Reveals Saturn is Losing Its Rings at “Worst-Case-Scenario” Rate

New results suggest there is no methane on Mars, living organisms thus less likely

Planets with oxygen don’t necessarily have life

The Enfer (French for “Hell”) is a special department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. It is a special collection of books and manuscripts of an erotic or pornographic character which, because of their rarity and value, may be seen only with authorization.

Polybius is an almost-certainly fictional arcade game. The original game allegedly was part of a government-run psychology experiment. [Thanks Darren!]

1-900-Hot-Jedi

Presenting Oscar, The Modular Body

Baloo: [tugging on Bagheera’s tail] C’mon, Baggy, get with the beat!

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The Chinese made 50 times more mobile payments in 2016 than U.S. consumers did, tripling to $5.5 trillion in China while U.S. payments only grew 39 percent, to $112 billion. […]

David Rennie, Beijing bureau chief for The Economist, gets somewhat closer to the truth in his forecasting exercise, projected to 2024. Like Rolland, Rennie starts by imagining a dystopian negation of the West. China’s intelligence services, working with the country’s technology firms, have turned millions of cars in America, Europe, and Asia into remote spying devices, letting Beijing track vehicles in real time and identify passengers with facial-recognition technology. […]

The Chinese order will break with the Western model by moving decisively away from Enlightenment ideals of transparency and public knowledge. Even in its formative stage, the Belt and Road Initiative is an exercise in the opacity of power. There are explicit plans and an esoteric practice where deals are agreed upon, often with no written evidence, and rigid hierarchies of access and knowledge. Some of the participants know only the broadest strokes of the plan, sufficient to defend it and to communicate with lower levels; others know nothing; and only a few can see months or years in advance. Or, as you sometimes hear in Beijing, just as every individual has a right to privacy, the party also has a right to privacy. The Belt and Road Initiative is like Holy Writ—never revealed completely and all at once, but only bit by bit and over many decades. […]

When we describe a new Chinese world order, we have to keep in mind there will be other shareholders, other shapers, and other balancers. The West will diminish in reach and influence, but 30 years from now it will continue to offer a powerful alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative, even if it may also be expected to evolve in response to the Chinese challenge.

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

chromogenic print, mounted on gatefold layout board { Hope Dworaczyk, First 3-D Playmate of the Month, June 2010 }