Cyrano was a man before his time

Most people are familiar with the fictional title character in the play Cyrano de Bergerac, a man who was so self-conscious about his big nose that he hesitated to declare his love for the beautiful Roxanne because he thought it was hopeless. However he was willing to compose beautiful love letters that Christian, his inarticulate rival for Roxanne’s affections, could pass off as his own, and Roxanne is so charmed by Christian’s borrowed eloquence that she falls in love with him. We might think that Cyrano was a bit of a dope to be so self-sacrificing but people can do surprising things when they are in love.
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Is twice-boiled water bad for tea?

The lively discussion that followed my post on how the British really cared about their tea reminded me of an issue that I had idly thought about some time ago when I visited relatives in New Zealand. They are Sri Lankan and thus, like the British, take their tea seriously so that they make sure that the ‘tea things’ (tea kettle, tea pot, tea, sugar, milk, cups, strainer, and spoons) are located in prominent and easily accessible places in the kitchen so that no one dies due to tea-deprivation. Their tea kettle is a powerful electric one that heats water very quickly, not the wimpy one that I have that you heat on the stove.
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Does anonymity worsen online behavior?

The fact that the internet seems to have a large number of people who indulge in abusive behavior towards others is hardly news. Why people behave this way is not clear. My own theory is similar to what I think about sports. My high school in Sri Lanka had a strong sports emphasis, since it was modeled on British public schools that took seriously the motto mens sana in corpore sano (“a healthy mind in a healthy body”). One used to constantly hear the phrase that playing sports builds character but I always doubted that. It seemed to me that what sports did was reveal character, since on the athletic field, one’s behavior was now visible to large number of people.
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The British are really serious about their tea

While Australians seem to really care about their beer, the British love their tea. I have commented before that you cannot watch British TV shows without being impressed by the major role that tea plays in them. People are always either drinking or making tea and as soon as anyone enters someone else’s home, even if it is a police officer investigating a crime, the first question is whether they would like a cup of tea. They seem to drink it by the gallon.
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Social pressure to drink alcohol

I do not drink alcohol. I have no objections to it and do on occasion drink a beer or some wine but usually only because there is no alternative or the occasion is festive, like toasting someone. My reasons for not drinking are that I do not enjoy the taste of alcohol and on one occasion when I had a little too much, I did not enjoy the sensation of being lightheaded and losing control.
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The problem with repealing Obamacare

The health plan popularly known as Obamacare is clunky and confusing but the big benefit that made it worthwhile (at least as a stop-gap until a single-payer system was implemented) was that tens of millions of previously uninsured people were now able to get access to health care. Three other major benefits were that people could not be denied coverage for so-called pre-existence conditions (an appalling feature of previous plans that insurance companies heavily exploited to deny coverage for many people) children could stay on their parents’ plans until they were 26, and the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid.
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An American teenager was murdered by the US government for nothing

The number of civilians who have been killed by the US government in other countries using drones now runs into the many hundreds at least. I have written about some of them, in particular the murder in a US drone strike of 16-year old American Abdulrahman Awlaki while he was eating with two cousins at an outdoor café in Yemen in 2011. He was the son of Anwar al Awlaki a once Bush-supporting but later pro-al Qaeda imam who was also killed in a drone strike in Yemen two weeks before. The father had been estranged from the son and the son had been living with grandparents in Yemen while trying to contact him. The son had never been accused of any links to terrorism
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The Twitter paradox

Twitter is an information network that is great for speed but terrible for conveying nuance and making an argument. Since the shelf life of an issue on Twitter is so short, it tempts people to fire off the first response that comes to their heads so as to be still relevant to the conversation, and as a result they may say things that they regret later. All of us have experienced occasions when in the heat of the moment we have said things that we immediately regret. With Twitter, there is no taking back. We read of case after case of people putting their careers and relationships at risk because of tweeting things that they later say were too clumsily written and wrongly interpreted. Some later delete their tweets, which rarely undoes the damage since the internet ever forgets.
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