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Obama Designates Half-Million Acre National Monument in New Mexico


President Barack Obama Wednesday signed a proclamation turning half a million acres of land in New Mexico into a national monument protected from development.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is now the largest national monument created during Obama’s tenure in office, twice the size of what was formerly the biggest, the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, also in New Mexico. The protected area, near Las Cruces, includes petroglyphs from three indigenous societies, canyons, mountains and desert grasslands, a volcanic field and a petrified forest.

Some Republicans, including Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, chair of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation, criticized the move as one that will harm national security along the border with Mexico. “National Parks, monuments, and wilderness areas along our southern border have become prime drug-trafficking corridors for violent criminals and drug cartels,” Bishop said in a letter urging the…

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The most comprehensive analysis ever of the gender of New York Times writers

Family Inequality

In this post I present the most comprehensive analysis ever reported of the gender of New York Times writers (I think), with a sample of almost 30,000 articles.

This subject has been in the news, with a good piece the other day by Liza Mundy — in the New York Times — who wrote on the media’s Woman Problem, prompted by the latest report from the Women’s Media Center. The WMC checked newspapers’ female byline representation from the last quarter of 2013, and found levels ranging from a low of 31% female at the NYT to a high of 46% at the Chicago Sun-Times. That’s a broad study that covers a lot of other media, and worth reading. But we can go deeper on the NYTimes. The WMC report, it appears (in full here), only focused on the A-section of each newspaper, with articles coded by topic according to unspecified criteria. Thanks to the awesome data collecting powers of my…

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An Open Letter To Dr. Drew Pinsky

Red Hairing


On April 24, 2014, a man called into Dr. Drew’s radio show “Love Line” regarding his fiancé who suffers with a number of medical ailments that are causing a lot of pain. The transcript is as follows:

Caller: My fiancé has a multitude of diagnoses. She has IC, Endometriosis, lactose intolerance. She has no stomach lining. I mean, a bunch of things going on.
Mike: No stomach lining? Is that real, Drew? Can that happen?
Dr. Drew: No. And by the way, IC is, I assume, interstitial cystitis?
Caller: Yes
Dr. Drew: These are all, these are all sort of what we call functional disorders. Everything you mentioned, everything you mentioned, are things that actually aren’t discernibly pathological. They’re, they’re just sort of what we call “garbage bag” diagnoses. When you can’t think of anything else, you just go, “Eh it’s that.” So it then makes…

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Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal


Knowing how to program a computer is good for you, and it’s a shame more people don’t learn to do it.

For years now, that’s been a hugely popular stance. It’s led to educational initiatives as effortless sounding as the Hour of Code (offered by Code.org) and as obviously ambitious as Code Year (spearheaded by Codecademy).

Even President Obama has chimed in. Last December, he issued a YouTube video in which he urged young people to take up programming, declaring that “learning these skills isn’t just important for your future, it’s important for our country’s future.”

I find the “everybody should learn to code” movement laudable. And yet it also leaves me wistful, even melancholy. Once upon a time, knowing how to use a computer was virtually synonymous with knowing how to program one. And the thing that made it possible was a programming language called BASIC.

John KemenyJohn…

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The pedantic, censorious quality of “sic”

Sentence first

Jessica Mitford, in The American Way of Death,* quotes a text that uses compliment when complement was intended, and adds [sic] to indicate this. What’s of interest here is the footnote she then appends:

I do not like the repeated use of sic. It seems to impart a pedantic, censorious quality to the writing. I have throughout made every effort to quote the funeral trade publications accurately; the reader who is fastidious about usage will hereafter have to supply his own sics.

This “pedantic, censorious quality” is sometimes insinuated and sometimes unmistakeable. Sic – not an abbreviation but a Latin word meaning thus or so – can usefully clarify that a speaker said or wrote just as they are quoted to have done. But it can also serve as a sneer, an unseemly tool to mock a trivial error or an utterance of questionable pedigree.

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A letter to that Nice Guy I ignored that one time

days like crazy paving

A comic depicting the difference between what a Nice Guy thinks is happening between him and a girl and what is actually happening. a shift in perspective can help.

Dear Nice Guy,

I’d say you probably don’t remember me, but I know you do. I know you remember me the way you remember every single girl you’ve ever latched onto like a leech who also happens to recommend books and carry shopping bags. I know you remember me because this is a small town and people talk and you wouldn’t believe some of the things people tell me you say about me, except that I guess you would because I know for sure that you said them.

I know you’ve waxed poetic at length to anyone who will listen (and a fair few people who won’t) about how I don’t know what I’m missing. And you know what? I guess you’re right. I don’t know what I’m missing. Maybe if, somewhere between the endless offers of a lift home and the free coffees…

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Exporting Winter

Citizen Sketcher

14Feb09_Snow Angels_Sketch Swap_Pines

A few weeks back I was part of an Urban Sketchers art exchange. I had partners in Girona and in Sao Paulo. There were other swaps with NYC. All told, about 40 artists participated.

We each did sketches of our towns and sent them off to our partners. The drawings were meant to arrive as a surprise, so I’ve been waiting til is was safe to show these.

14Feb09_Snow Angels_Sketch Swap_Bronze

I’d been fed up with the cold and wet of winter, and was feeling envious of these guys in sunny countries. Somehow that meant I really had to paint some snow. They had to see something that could only be found in Montreal. Perhaps there’s a little northern pride going on.

We were lucky enough to get the last snow of the year that very weekend. I got up early and headed straight to Mount Royal Cemetery to get these scenes.  It was…

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Am I Crazy? Or Is He? – How Addiction Warps Us

A Walk on the Wild Side

Silver-Linings-Playbook-Image-03 From the film “Silver Lining Playbook” about mental illness

He was already high when I picked him up from the bus station to bring him home.

I’d hoped after a month in jail he’d be clean and sober and ready to make a fresh start on the road to recovery. That’s why we were letting him stay with us. He had nowhere else to go, and we wanted him to be safe until we could get him into rehab.

But it was already too late for safe, for clean, for a fresh start.

I could have refused to bring him home, of course. I could have left him at the bus stop. But I didn’t. I had my suspicions, but I wasn’t absolutely certain he was high.

I was sure a couple of days later though when, after I refused to give him a ride into town, he disappeared in…

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Multiple Sclerosis: The First Two Years.

It's complicated.

What I remember most about the first two years of MS is the hunger. I remember lying flat on my mattress, hungry. Close your eyes, go back to sleep.

I’m hungry.

I’m tired. No: I’m decimated. In this game of rock-paper-scissors, tired always wins out over hungry. I close my eyes. I drift in and out of sleep. Four hours pass. I wake up and think: I’m so hungry. Sleep. Eight hours. Still hungry. More sleep. Twelve hours. So fucking hungry. Knocked out again. Sixteen hours. Twenty hours. Sometimes twenty-four or more. Still hungry. Still fucking hungry.

Each time I awake I briefly contemplate getting up, foraging for something to eat. But the walk through the living room, past the bathroom, into the kitchen is long, and I am weak. The thought of opening the fridge or a cabinet, of microwaving something, is beyond me…

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