Here are some (mostly uplifting) good reads, the fruits of me cleaning up my various collections of saved links from the week (and earlier). FYI, nerd links are at the bottom.
Yay for volunteers helping homeless veterans!
Sunny Skyz has a story about volunteers remodeling apartments for homeless veterans in Ohio:
The neighborhood was full of modern apartments almost 100 years ago. Now the plan is to turn the nearly 160 apartments around, and build a veteran community.
“There are all kinds of units around here,” Executive Director Linda Gens told WKBN News. “They can all be rehabbed and it doesn’t take much money.”
Iron Soup Historical Preservation is taking the lead on the project, but is getting lots of help. Volunteers cut tiles, raked leaves and painted walls, preparing the run-down apartments for the veterans. American Food Forest and Youngstown Inner City Garden are also helping with the project.
Back in my day, you had to elliptical uphill both ways
Speaking of improving life via public works, Michele Debczak at mental_floss wrote in November, 2015 about the arrival in America of the senior playground trend that has already caught on in Asia and Europe:
Companies like KaBOOM! and Must Have Play are working to make a new type of playground available to the nation’s older population. The parks feature low-impact exercise equipment such as elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and hand-eye dexterity games. The activities are meant to improve balance and flexibility, and while you won’t find twisting slides or monkey bars at these playgrounds, they do sometimes include modified classics like swings and see-saws.
In addition to promoting physical health, the parks provide mental and social benefits to visitors. The senior playgrounds can serve as social gathering spaces within the community and help to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness among older generations.
Only 53 in America so far, and I am just wondering how long it will be before we start seeing stories about Helicopter Children who won’t let their parents have any fun at these playgrounds.
Inhale, cease. Exhale, desist.
Speaking of both exercise and old links from last Fall, folks who like hot yoga (which is more than a little dangerous, fyi) will be glad to know that Bikram Choudhury’s sequence is no longer copyrighted and licensed, as he finally lost a court battle over the thing:
back in 2008 one of his senior students –Mark Drost- decided to branch off on his own and co-found Evolation Yoga. Drost worked very closely with Bikram Choudhury (founder of Bikram) for six years and then started teaching the same sequence of yoga asanas in his studio and teacher training classes.
Choudhury took him to court over the matter in 2011 and lost a summary judgement in 2012 and this week the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California upheld that ruling.
You can click the link to the story, and then follow other links they have about the story, if you like me are tickled to see woo woo yoga website copy intermingling with the legal language from a copyright ruling.
We have the technology
Perhaps you prefer video games to yoga classes or grownup playgrounds, but hey maybe you’re doing a kind of exercise too. Brain exercise! Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan has a great article at Gizmodo about the shift in research from the potential negatives of video game play to the potential positives:
Because not only are video games increasingly diverse and played by more people, they’re also a fantastic controlled simulation of real-world tasks. That makes them perfect for scientists who want to study the complex neurological mechanisms at work while we play, say, Rise of Nations.
This is the Gizmodo version of a full length article, and it is really worth clicking on to read in full. Campbell relates the conclusions of several different studies and how the findings might be used to improve the mental life of people of all ages. Check it out!
We also have the… …common sense?
If you can’t be bothered to do yoga or play video games, maybe you can get healthier by just not doing something. Chicago comedian and writer Andy Boyle wrote a piece for Medium.com, which I found via the Chicago Tribune, about the benefits of not drinking for two years:
When you’re not spending most of your free time at bars, you get a lot done. I read more. I write more. I learn more.
I spend more time working on bettering myself and my skills than I ever would have sitting at a bar, chatting with a buddy or two. I’m much less social than I used to be, but I’m also creating more art and failing a lot more than ever before.
Boyle details a number of both the external changes (buying a loft condo, losing weight) and the internal changes (more empathy, less sad) he experienced after giving up the drink. I had mixed feelings about this post. On the one hand, he covered an angle that isn’t usually covered, which is the social stigma of not drinking:
3. People will judge the heck out of you.
This was the weirdest one to deal with. Many, many folks will give you attitude for not drinking. Here are some things I’ve been told:
“C’mon, dude, just have one beer! It’s not like you’re going to meetings or whatever!”
“I can’t trust someone who doesn’t drink.”
“You’re not fun unless you’re drunk.”
“When you don’t drink, it makes me feel bad about myself, which makes me not like you.”
“I can’t date someone who doesn’t want to get drunk with me, sorry.”
I’ll bet I said some of these things myself, back when I used to drink — because when you’re around someone who doesn’t do something you like doing, you can be taken aback by it.
I’ve had friends who’ve stopped hanging out with me because I don’t drink anymore. I’ve had relationships end (or not even start) because of it. I have been sent screen shots of people I know talking smack about me to other people because I choose to not do a thing.
It’s weird. But it makes you realize the bad relationship with booze that other folks must be having. And for that, I have empathy. And I hope they figure it out.
In my nearly-ten years of not drinking, I heard or experienced a few of those things – but mostly at first, and mostly from coworkers or folks other than my established friends (my peeps are awesome).
I suppose I must have lost some of the empathy he talks about along the way, because every few months when I read this post – and someone posts something like this and it makes the rounds every few months – I can’t help but think, “well yeah, when you stop consuming a depressant, that is the caloric equivalent of drinking an entire cake, which your liver then breaks down into a toxin, you will probably be less sad, lose weight, and feel better.” It just seems really obvious to me, but then again I had a long alcohol-free time in my adult life. Maybe that just made me more consciously aware of alcohol’s downsides than someone who has never had a prolonged experience of alcohol-free-adulthood? All of the results are variable, of course – the more you drink, the more you will benefit from not drinking. But anyone will benefit from not drinking, even if you only drink a little, because alcohol is a poisonous drug. It isn’t dangerous in small amounts – it’s kind of fun! – but it is never healthy (despite what you may sometimes read in a headline).
Anyway, Donald Trump!
A topic that needs no segue: Donald Trump, perhaps trying to distract from discussions about his own troubling sexual tendencies, has decided to bring up then-President Bill Clinton’s affairs and generally raunchy sexual history. Jamelle Bouie writes at Slate that this must be a play for older voters, because younger voters don’t care:
This gets to two broader points about this election. The first is that, for as much as Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have been criticized as past-their-prime in national politics, it’s also true that they’re essentially unknown to large numbers of voters. A younger country means both candidates have a chance to introduce and redefine themselves, which Clinton is trying to do, hence interviews with celebrities like Lena Dunham and a forthcoming appearance on the comedy Broad City.
The second is that the GOP coalition isn’t just whiter than the one backing the Democrats; it’s considerably older, too. If the Bill Clinton attacks make any sense, it’s only as a tool for mobilizing conservative voters; after all, the typical Republican voter is closer to their 50s than their 30s, and has a clear memory of the Clinton years.
WTF Trump? I thought these were happy links?
Don’t worry, I was just setting you up to be even more delighted by this:
Hundreds of thousands of citizens of the United Kingdom aren’t pleased with presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims “until we can figure out what’s going on.”
Indeed, the story details how folks in the UK have even petitioned to get this on the parliamentary agenda, even if it is a mostly symbolic victory:
in direct response to the petition, the House of Commons has scheduled a debate – albeit in an overflow room – to consider the ban.
Debates of this nature are largely symbolic and rarely change government policy, according to BuzzFeed.
Even so, the debate marks a first in recent memory that one of America’s closest allies has seriously considered cutting ties with a potential future president.
Hahaha, “potential future president,” hahaha. No.
8 whole years, please!
Peter Baker has a reassuring story at the NYTimes about President Obama’s decision to stay engaged with the national discussion during his last year in office:
Mr. Obama recognizes that the window for major legislation has nearly closed. Aides say his State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 12, will be more a thematic discussion of national priorities than the typical laundry list of proposals, an acknowledgment that the chances of passing most of his ideas have all but vanished.
So the president will flex his executive muscles as much as he can, even as critics complain of imperial overreach. He will start on Monday as he kicks off a drive to use his own authority to tighten regulation of gun sales, followed by a town-hall-style meeting about the issue on CNN on Thursday.
I am still hoping for some 2008-esque speeches by President Obama before the election, and certainly before he leaves office.
Okay, let’s do the nerd stuff
Nikole Hollenitsch writes in the Pacifica Post about the relationship between Joseph Campbell – the man himself – and George Lucas back in the 70s and 80s:
Lucas invited Campbell to see all three of the Star Wars movies then made, and Joe agreed, to see all three in one day in a screening room at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch near San Francisco. Campbell was amazed at how well mythological themes had been incorporated into the films, and described it later, saying: “I tell you, I was really … thrilled. Here the man understands the metaphor. What I saw was things that had been in my books but rendered in terms of the modern problem, which is man and machine … That young man opened a vista and knew how to follow it and it was totally fresh.” (The Hero’s Journey [San Francisco, 1990], p. 181-182)
The piece is short, but fun, and will mildly disrupt your George Lucas appreciation:disdain ratio.
Speaking of Star Wars, Sploid has a post with images from some fancy space ship illustration book for the new movie:
Some of the samples have lots of explanatory text. I included the X-Wing image as a sample, because… …I mean is it just me or are the turbines cut in half? I mean what is the point – or possibility – of a half turbine?
Much more realistically, SpaceX has successfully vertically launched and then vertically landed a rocket. Robinson Meyer had the story at The Atlantic:
But those two rockets had different tasks. Never before has a craft pulled off an orbital deployment—the second stage of Falcon 9 released 11 private ORBCOMM satellites on Monday evening—and had its first stage return to the ground intact. The Falcon 9 launch system works—or, at least, it has worked once—and the company can start taking on bigger missions, aiming higher than before. And the true triumph doesn’t just belong for Musk, for now every space agency in the world knows: A reusable, orbital rocket is possible.
SpaceX has decided not to refurbish and reuse this particular rocket, but that is the next step in the development process and a big hurdle to exploration – and colonization! – of space.
Update: Happy Birthday, Roy Batty!
Today is the inception date of the misunderstood villain (dude was just having an existential crisis, you know?) from Blade Runner:
Enjoy your weekend.