Monday Miscellany: Masterpost, Metaphors, MOVING

Housekeeping Note: I move to the Bay Area for the summer, beginning June 6th. I have a MASSIVE AND SCARY list of things to do before then, and posts will be slightly shorter. If you live there, lovely! I will be deeply sleep deprived for at least several days, but will be around through the middle of August, at which point I will be moving to Boston. 

1. A LOT of people seem to be messaging therapists as a result of this series of posts, so I’m relinking to the Guide to Getting a Therapist Masterpost. Yes, I’m linking to my own stuff in my link round up. I can do what I want!

2. I want to think about this more, but it has been making me think already, so I throw it open to you for thinking Thoughts about.

3. With full credit to Erica for suggesting I might enjoy them, this series of books ate one weekend and threatens another. Start with Steerswoman.

A fantasy with an underlying theme that sets rationality and science against the unknown world of magic and superstition. The heroine is a steerswoman, one of a group of mapmakers and fact collectors who is intrigued when she discovers some blue stones embedded in trees.

4. Statistical handwavery to claim you’ve created a test for suicide risk. Nopenopenope.

5. Publication bias.

6. “When one is in the penalty box, tears are permitted.

7. I recant my snottiness (undeserved, nose-in-air snottiness!) about Listening to Prozac, and recommend it. The first chapter or two seemed to have Kramer using fuzzy and odd definitions of ‘drugs’ and ‘personality’ (hence, snottiness) but I enjoyed all of the following sections, and it’s one of the quickest and easiest-to-read summaries of how we ended up with antidepressants I’ve read. I do not have a psychiatry background at all; I think laypeople will find this approachable and easy to read.

8. I know just enough about code and recall just enough of my Arabic lessons to tell you that this Arabic programming language is NEAT. (h/t Leah)

9. A spectacular article on the life of a fact-checker. (h/t Ed Yong)

One of the first stories I ever fact checked was about paleontology in a big city. The text was a little over 1,000 words. The editor handed me a thick envelope full of papers, notes, and newspaper clippings for reference. All this paper and ink had gone into making two pages of a magazine. I learned that fact checkers also act as last-ditch reporters: There were still more questions that the editor needed me to answer — details like “What did the paleontologists dig out of the ground first?” (Answer: snails, and along with it the mind-pop reward of tracking down a good detail.)


Sometimes the metaphor is all wrong, and I’m left to triage. Once I was fact checking a line that went something like this: “If you were to scythe off a human head, the carotid arteries would shoot blood five feet up.” The first source I contacted, a doctor, said, “I don’t know, I haven’t tried that.” The writer emailed me the calculation — blood pressure is 120 millimeters of mercury, equal to the pressure of 62 centimeters of water. I contacted a forensics expert, just to be sure. On paper, the pressure of that artery is enough to shoot blood five feet up. But the body is not a freshman-year physics problem. Sever a neck, and the blood vessels collapse and the nervous system shuts down.

“Immediately?” I asked the expert. He sent me a link to some videos, all with one common search term: “beheading.” Indeed, there was no shooting blood.