I hope you don’t mind that I’m calling you by your first names, even though I know only one of you. (Josh and I go way back.) I realize I could have just said, “Hey guys!” which, come to think of it, really makes my point for me. But I wanted this…
Tom Standage of The Telegraph, on writing, in OverMatter
If somebody asked you for tips on becoming a better writer, what would you tell them?
“First, when you have a good structural idea, or a good turn of phrase comes to you, note it down immediately — even if you are falling asleep, or in the shower. You think you’ll remember it later, but you won’t, and when inspiration strikes you need to make the most of it, because it doesn’t happen often. Second, and I know this is a cliche, but writing really is rewriting. The aim is to make it look smooth and effortless, even though it usually isn’t. So get something down, and then go back over it, again and again.”
I deal with suicidal, unipolar depression and I take medication daily to treat it. Over the past seven years, I’ve had two episodes that were severe and during which I thought almost exclusively of suicide. I did not eat much and lost weight during…
Raises some of the same issues raised by Atlantic essayist James McWilliams (with whom I often disagree, but I think his points about the animal-welfare issues especially in backyard slaughter are worth listening to).
Long before the Internet took the air out of newspapers, the late writer Paul Hemphill (a genius, my friend, and I miss him so) wrote this lovely essay about the point at which journalists realize they have to go out on their own.
He was writing about his decision to leave the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, once a great engine of the civil rights movement and a voice for liberal whites who believed the South had to change, but already diminished when Paul decided to go. It was my last newspaper as well, and Paul’s widow Susan Percy, editor of Georgia Trend magazine, gave me a Xeroxed copy when I faced the same decision.
"Quitting the Paper" has never been digitized til now; Susan kindly gave the blog BronxBanter permission to reproduce it. For anyone who commits journalism in any format, it is worth your time to read.
Chalara fraxinea is now the greatest threat facing trees in the UK since Dutch elm disease devastated the countryside during the 1970s.
The microscopic fungus, which infects the leaves, bark and wood of ash trees, causing them to wither and eventually die, has destroyed huge swathes of forest elsewhere in Europe.
Now a major effort to find infected woodland in Britain has been started because of fears the fungus will gain a foothold and spread among the country’s 80 million ash trees. Already it has been found in nurseries and at several plantations around the country, resulting in tens of thousands of trees being destroyed…
Researchers are warning that rising global temperatures could see a shift in the world’s traditional staples and who grows them.
They predict that maize, wheat and rice production will decrease in many developing countries - forcing farmers to replace them with crops more resistant to heat, drought and flooding.
The prediction, if true, would put more pressure on a world already facing a potential crisis over global food security.
The UN commissioned report says yields of the world’s three main sources of calories will decrease by 2050, as temperatures rise. Wheat is forecast to drop by 13 per cent in developing countries, while rice could see yields fall by 15 per cent. And maize farmers in Africa could lose up to 20 per cent of their crops…
Frightening scared people for the fun of it: A hedge-fund guy, and campaign manager for Christopher Wright (R), competing for for 12th Cong. district seat in NY, apparently has been exposed as the author of a Twitter account that sent out false information as Sandy was dumping on NY. How disgusting. Wright should disavow him.
“in Nepal… the Central Food Laboratory recently found alarming levels of antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin in milk and chicken samples. Ten percent of chicken sold in Kathmandu and Tarai were found having ‘extreme’ levels of drugs including tetracycline, sulfonamide, penicillin, aminoglycoside and micro lead.”—MYREPUBLICA.com - News in Nepal: Fast, Full & Factual
It’s application season for the Health Care Performance Fellowships offered by the Association of Health Care Journalists, where I am a board member. If you’re at all interested in any aspect of health care delivery — costs, access, patient harm, inequity, technology — this program will give you a $2500 stipend plus lots of interim goodies such as data-analysis help and conference and seminar attendance.
More details here (and follow the link for projects that were funded in past years).
Excerpted from our website:
The AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance is a yearlong program allowing mid-career journalists to pursue a significant reporting project examining health care systems in the United States. The reporters continue working their regular jobs and pursue the projects with the support of their newsrooms, which will publish or air the work. Freelancers are also welcome to apply. Guidance is provided through customized seminars on health care systems, conference calls and email consultations with AHCJ fellowship leaders. Financial support is provided to attend the seminars, the annual AHCJ conference and a regional workshop, as well as membership in AHCJ. Fellows may tap financial support for field reporting site visits, health data or other research needs related to the project. Fellows also earn a $2,500 fellowship award for the successful completion of their projects. The fellowship program is supported by The Commonwealth Fund. Application deadline: Nov. 9, 2012…
In the Tamms supermax prison in Illinois, prisoners are held in permanent solitary confinement, 24/7. The “Photo Requests from Solitary” project seeks to alleviate their mentally crippling isolation by recruiting photographers and everyday people to take photos that these men (they are almost all men) can hang on their walls. If you are disposed to help, the photo requests are posted on this page.
I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, there may have been days or even weeks at a time when I have not written — even when I may have wanted to — but that doesn’t mean I was blocked. It simply means I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, as I’d like to argue, exactly the right place at the right time.
The creative process has more than one kind of expression. There’s the part you could show in a movie montage — the furious typing or painting or equation solving where the writer, artist, or mathematician accomplishes the output of the creative task. But then there’s also the part that happens invisibly, under the surface. That’s when the senses are perceiving the world, the mind and heart are thrown into some sort of dissonance, and the soul chooses to respond.
That response doesn’t just come out like vomit after a bad meal. There’s not such thing as pure expression. Rather, because we live in a social world with other people whose perceptual apparatus needs to be penetrated with our ideas, we must formulate, strategize, order, and then articulate. It is that last part that is visible as output or progress, but it only represents, at best, 25 percent of the process.
Real creativity transcends time. If you are not producing work, then chances are you have fallen into the infinite space between the ticks of the clock where reality is created. Don’t let some capitalist taskmaster tell you otherwise — even if he happens to be in your own head.
“Science fiction opens itself unconsciously to its own fears. Judging by its typical subject matter, it has plenty. It is visibly in fear of death. It has a terror of not being special in the universe. It has a terror of being both vulnerable & out of control. It fears injury. It fears disease. It fears disorientation. It is frame dependent in the perceptual rather than the physics sense & will almost despairingly construct contexts & continuities to appear seamless. It fears the puzzled messiness of being human & is always seeking a fix or a cure or a techno-betterment. It is in denial of its understanding that “organisation” means something different to the universe than it does to human beings. It is afraid of entropy. It is afraid of the irreversibility of action & the rigid nature of objects. Its obsession with unlimited access to vast spaces indicates a deep undermining recognition of its own limits. It fears both that the universe is infinite & that it isn’t infinite enough. But sf’s greatest fear, other than that of generally being alive, is the fear of appearing to be wrong–that is, without argumentative defences: effectively a version of that nightmarish condition in which the individual is self-discovered naked in a public situation.”—mapping the nightmare | the m john harrison blog
Please help defend a student journalist censored by his college
A student journalist at Bryan College, a conservative Christian institution in Tennessee, apparently is being pressured by his school’s administration to back down on accurate reporting regarding a faculty member.
The story is being covered by long-time media scrutinizer Jim Romenesko on his blog.
The original post, detailing how the student uncovered that the inappropriate circumstances behind a professor’s departure were concealed, is here. Briefly, the student wrote a story for the campus paper using public records, the administration spiked it, and the student distributed it anyway.
The follow-up, detailing that the student was pressured to ask for the post to be taken down, and may be censured by the school, which has misrepresented his reporting, is here.
It is important to note that the student, Alex Green, represents himself as a Bible-believing Christian in tune with his school’s overall values. It is out of those values, he said in the original post, that he stood up for the truth being told about the professor’s behavior.
If you disagree with the journalist’s treatment by his college, and the concealment of misbehavior by a professor, please consider contacting the college:
“Let me make one thing very clear: writing is damn hard work. The simple mechanics of turning to a fresh page in a notebook, opening a text file or the admin panel of your website are one thing. But what trips most people up lies in the confusion and frustration behind cracking the nut of discipline and focusing on the deliverable. Creativity is often a painful and seemingly unnatural act. Even after years of earning a living as a writer, I’ve still not reconciled the tensions between physical act of writing and the emotional satisfactions that comes from actually having written”—
…Here are several tips for making your stories easy for yourself and others to fact check, based on interviews with Peter Canby, senior editor and head of fact checking at The New Yorker, whose fact checking department is probably the most famed in the country, and Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Beak of the Finch” and a professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. These tips were written to apply to freelancers or new newsroom journalists, but they apply universally…
I debated whether or not to write this post. And then I debated whether or not to put it on Tumblr…but I decided it was important. Because in my own way, I can (unfortunately) point out exactly what is wrong with men when they don’t realize how hard it is to be a woman. How we do not have equal opportunities and freedoms in everyday life….
The Abaetetuba municipality, in the northeast of the [Para] state, has a Chagas disease outbreak. Of the 35 cases registered in Para state, the city registered 11. The suspicion is that the occurrences are related to consumption of acai [a palm, _Euterpe oleracea_, cultivated for fruit, juice or hearts of palm. - Mod. TY]. “We have an recent outbreak in the Abaetetuba municipality. We have about 11 people who are ill, including a man who grinds up acai and 2 people in his family. We know that this number [of ill individuals] is going to increase. Health Surveillance and Epidemiology of the municipality is working [on the situation] and we, as state government [officials], are supervising their actions,” explained Elenild Goes, state coordinator for Chagas disease. According to the state Secretariat of Health (SESPA), Para is the state [in Brazil] with the most cases of the disease. In 2011, 141 cases were registered. From 1 Jan - August, 2012, the Secretariat total is 35 cases…
(Reuters) - U.S. agribusiness company Cargill Inc said on Wednesday that it plans to start operating one of China’s biggest broiler production facilities by the middle of next year, boosting its presence in the world’s top meat consumer. With an investment of $250 million, the integrated chicken broiler facility under construction in Anhui province would include a feed mill, farms, hatchery and processing plants, said Christopher Langholz, business unit leader for Cargill Animal Protein, speaking at an industry event in Thailand. “We are doing the construction right now and hope to start by June or July next year,” he said. “We will raise 65 million birds a year and it will be one of the biggest integrated plants in China.”…
Eurosurveillance, Volume 17, Issue 34, 23 August 2012
A CLUSTER OF MENINGOCOCCAL DISEASE CAUSED BY RIFAMPICIN-RESISTANT C MENINGOCOCCI IN FRANCE, APRIL 2012
I Mounchetrou Njoya (
)1, A E Deghmane2, M K Taha2, H Isnard1, I Parent du Châtelet3
French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (Institut de Veille Sanitaire; InVS), Ile-de-France and Champagne-Ardenne, France
Institut Pasteur, National Reference Center for Meningococci, Paris, France
French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (Institut de Veille Sanitaire; InVS), Saint Maurice, France
n April 2012, a cluster of two cases of meningococcal disease caused by rifampicin-resistant C meningococci was reported in the Champagne-Ardenne region, France. The two cases occurred in a student population living in the same town but studying at different schools. Bacteriological and epidemiological investigations of cases have shown that the isolates of both cases were non-differentiable.
…In April 2012, at an approximate interval of 10 days, we observed two cases of IMD caused by rifampicin-resistant C meningococcus in students in the Champagne-Ardenne region. Failure of chemoprophylaxis, due to antibiotic resistance, could lead to the occurrence of secondary cases [13–15]. Therefore, the use of rifampicin in chemoprophylaxis against already resistant bacteria creates a positive selection for resistant strains that may then provoke secondary cases. The detection of the cluster of two cases with non-differentiable isolates of rifampicin-resistant C meningococci suggests the possible carriage and circulation of the ST-11 strain in the student population of the Champagne-Ardenne region. …
Thirteen senators from both sides of the aisle wrote to U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg this week asking the agency to collect more data on antibiotics used in food animal production.
As FDA has noted before, the agency does not have detailed data about veterinary drug usage. Antibiotics sales are reported to FDA, but the agency does not collect any data on which species are treated and what percentage of the drugs are used for disease prevention, growth promotion or therapeutic treatment. Without this data, it’s nearly impossible to accurately track whether the industry is reducing its usage of medically important antibiotics — which scientists and public health advocates have long argued would help combat antibiotic resistance.
"This is of great concern to us, and we urge the agency to design a system with relevant agencies and stakeholders for gathering and analyzing necessary information to assess the effectiveness of the new policies," read the letter, which was signed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME). "Should you find any critical gaps in your statutory authority, we would welcome the opportunity to work with you to provide additional authorities and resources."
…The letter was also signed by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), John Kerry (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Consider an all-too-common scenario: You’re burning up from a high fever after a routine surgical procedure, and an infection specialist is called to help treat your problem. You assume that a short course of antibiotics will quickly turn things around. But the specialist candidly admits: “I’m sorry, I can’t treat your infection. You’ve got a resistant bacteria, a super bug.”
Any of us might hear those frightening words sooner than we think…
An 8-year-old who died of E. coli O157 was “not part of an outbreak” and recently visited the US. Did she acquire the infection here? (ht Pat Gardiner)
Wednesday 15 August 2012 11:18
A schoolgirl from Ayrshire, who died after contracting e.coli 0157, had recently returned from visiting her father in the United States. Rachel Shaw, 8, died in Yorkhill sick children’s hospital in Glasgow after suffering a bout of sickness and diarrhoea. Reports today note that she had been visiting her father during the summer holidays and had recently returned from her trip. Cindy O’Driscol, head teacher at Dalrymple Primary, paid tribute to Rachel. She said: “Rachel was a well-loved member of our school community. She was always bright and cheerful and will be sorely missed. “Our thoughts and best wishes are with her family at this difficult time.” NHS Ayrshire and Arran said in a statement that it was satisfied that the case was not part of an outbreak and that a particular source had been identified.
SNELLVILLE — In the ICU at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Mark Rinehart sanitized his hands on Friday, chatted with a nurse and looked over his unconscious wife. Thin and pretty, her brown hair swept into a high ponytail, she breathed through a tracheostomy tube, her lips parted. Mark pinched a white sheet covering his wife and lifted up.
The feet that had carried Hannah Rinehart on missionary trips to Mexico and Poland, where she developed an affinity for delicious perogies, were gone. The hands she used for gardening around the 1950s ranch they share in Decatur, for playing with their puppy, the finger for her wedding ring — all of that was gone, too.
Instead what Mark saw were four gauze-wrapped bulbs: the remainder after an unfathomable subtraction, the choice that had become the only option.
Mark is trying to look at his wife as much as possible, to blunt the shock by the time she revives, possibly some time today. But seeing what’s missing pinches his face with pain.
"I can’t really look at her too long," said Mark, 27, dropping the white sheet. …
Oh, how I heart social media and the modern world for giving voice to the little people who previously had to marvel at the world in relative silence. From watching Reddit’s astonishing coverage of of the horrible, horrible tragedy in Aurora, which GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram describes as no less…
“You’re either concerned about your organization’s digital future or you’re not. If your only digital person on staff is someone who posts things to Twitter and Facebook, you’re not serious. If your digital people are just shoveling the print stuff online, you’re not serious. If your digital people don’t have a seat at the table in terms of content development and other key decisions, you’re not serious.”—from an excellent post by @AnnaTarkov: The techies in journalism are not the problem
- “I’d like to take that Essie polish behind the middle school and get it pregnant.” - “Smile, honey, that leather tote is so now!” - “Whatchu doin’ later? I’ve got a really good novel you should borrow.” - “Girl, those wedges are so fly yet practical.” - “Oooh baby I love your way.” [SAID…
Sumter, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says lab results confirm a Sumter boy died after coming in contact with a rare amoeba.
Blake Driggers, 8, died Tuesday.
His aunt, Beth White, says his family was informed Wednesday night that an autopsy revealed the amoeba as the cause of death.
White says Blake complained of not feeling well last Saturday morning after swimming in Lake Marion. On Sunday he got a high fever and was taken to Tuomey Regional Hospital. Doctors there decided to transport back to Palmetto Children’s Hospital, where he later died.
“stLike the fact of tides, the democratization — the availability — of real food is not meant for debate: this is an ethical, moral issue, plain and simple, with roots as ancient as loaves and fishes. And we are never, ever going to move this conversation forward and find answers to this universal, politically blind problem unless we sit down together and stop throwing rocks. But if you do have to go down the political road, so be it: don’t be so concerned about who I marry, or whether or not I pray (or to whom), or my right to a safe abortion, and then blithely look the other way while the only food I have access to is going to kill me, my family, my children, and yours. You don’t get to have it both ways. Now tell me who’s the elitist.”—
Brilliance from Elissa Altman (Poor Man’s Feast), which starts with a rant on the dismal state of road food in this country and turns into a careful, moral elucidation of the politicization of food. Brava.
…Celebrity chef and TV personality Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: “It’s right to describe today’s commitment by EU ministers to a discards ban as a ‘massive breakthrough,’ and our Fish Fighters should be delighted that our message has been not only heard, but acted on. Well done Mr. [Richard] Benyon [the UK’s fisheries minister] and the other ministers who worked so hard through the night to push this through. We know that changing EU law will be a marathon, not a sprint, and there’s still much more to do in the coming months to make sure the ministers deliver on these promises. We need to change provisional dates into a completely committed timetable. We need to persuade MEPs to improve on, and then ratify the decisions taken by the ministers. Only then can we ensure that we will have sustainable fish stocks, a viable fishing industry and a healthy marine environment for generations to come. …”
Nowhere is the global push to restore degraded land likely to be more important, complex and expensive than in China, where vast swaths of the soil are contaminated by arsenic and heavy metals from mines and factories.
Scientists told the Guardian that this is likely to prove a bigger long-term problem than air and water pollution, with potentially dire consequences for food production and human health.
Zhou Jianmin, director of the China Soil Association, estimated that one-tenth of China’s farmland was affected. “The country, the government and the public should realise how serious the soil pollution is,” he said. “More areas are being affected, the degree of contamination is intensifying and the range of toxins is increasing.”
Other estimates of soil pollution range as high as 40%, but an official risk assessment is unlikely to be made public for several years.
The government has spent six years on a soil survey involving 30,000 people, but the academics leading the project said they have been forbidden from releasing preliminary findings…
A village cricket team, 12 horses, 10 chickens, 70 sheep, a model of Glastonbury Tor, two mosh pits, and the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world are among the sights that will greet the world when the curtain comes up on the London Olympics, it has been revealed. The surreal vista of a “green and pleasant land”, with giant maypoles representing the symbols of the four nations of the UK around which children will dance, is the scene for the opening sequence of Danny Boyle’s £27m opening ceremony extravaganza. The director has ignored the age-old maxim about never working with children or animals. The opening scene features real grass, real ploughs, real soil and – said Boyle – real clouds that would supply “rain” if there was none in order to ensure an authentically British atmosphere. With no Glastonbury festival this year, the event will be evoked with a replica of Glastonbury Tor and mosh pits at either end of the arena….
…food safety is part of a larger struggle in American politics. Across a range of issues, be it health care, retirement security, or consumer finance, individuals and their families are forced to bear a greater share of the risks associated with modern life. The battles over food safety reflect this broader trend: Both industry and government, perhaps for different reasons, have a joint interest in shifting the onus on to consumers…
SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2011 AT 03:39PM
Pixar story artist Emma Coats has tweeted a series of “story basics” over the past month and a half — guidelines that she learned from her more senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories:
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.