At times, I tend to think that it is like eating meat. Anyone who thinks about it and looks into it will realize that it is cruel and not ideal, but can anyone honestly hope for a scenario in which it does not exist?
Usury has been around since the beginnings of civilization, and it is something that either you understand or you don’t. Simply put, usury is the charging of excessive interest on a debt. Let us say that you have the relatively small amount of $3,500 worth of credit card debt, upon which you are being charged the not-uncommon rate of 29 percent interest per year (APR), and your minimum payment is set at say $85 per month. Thanks to the nature of compound interest, it will take you 194 months to pay off the debt, meaning that, by the end of it — 16 years later — you will have paid $16,490 on the original loan. The interesting thing is that there is a magic minimum payment number that, if you go below it, the number of months that it will take to pay off the debt will become infinite. Continue reading
A few days ago, I came accross an article in Salon that I found extremely horrific. It was about how Bill Keller had written an Op-Ed article in the New York Times disparging the way in which cancer patient Lisa Adams was dealing with her diagnosis. He had apparently suggested that her seeking out clinical trials was undignified as compared to his father-in-law, who accepted his fate with less of a fight. Keller’s article came two days after his wife, Emma Keller, had written a piece for The Guardian, which compared Adams’ tweets to “funeral selfies,” a phenomenon in which young people take pictures of themselves in front of caskets. Mystified by how a couple could be so insensitive, I decided to take a closer look.
Oceans cover most of the planet, and orcas are able to live in all of them. It is unclear how many there are. Attempting to count them is a science unto itself. Some in the know say that there are at least 50,000 of them. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature cites them as second only to humans in their range of habitats. Like many, my interest in orcas was piqued recently after watching the Gabriela Cowperthwaite documentary Blackfish, which focuses on deaths at SeaWorld and affiliated parks caused by captive orcas. As the documentary rightly points out, there are no documented cases of an orca harming a human in the wild. Orcas, which can reach the age of 90 in the wild, rarely live past 30 in captivity (which is the life expectancy SeaWorld would have its audiences believe is normal). Although they are called killer whales, the name is in no way appropriate. They are not whales at all, but rather the largest species of dolphin, and there is no more reason to call them “killers” than to call a dolphin or any other predatory species a killer. One might as well call wolves “killer dogs.”
In 1992, a 49-year-old Bobby Fischer emerged from a 20-year seclusion to play for a $5 million prize against Borris Spassky in Sveti Stefan, Yugoslavia. One of the spectators that showed up to watch the match was an 81-year-old Russian grandmaster whom Fischer had never met named Andrei Lilienthal, who was living across the border in Budapest. Fischer’s words of greeting:
“Hastings, 1934/35: the queen sacrifice against Capablanca. Brilliant!”
There have always been badasses around, and the Stoic philosophers have a reputation as being some of the original ones (think Russell Crowe in Gladiator). As part of the research for my next book project, I have been reading Seneca’s Letters From a Stoic for the first time. Seneca was a Roman philosopher and statesman, roughly a contemporary of Christ, and a tutor and advisor to the emperor Nero, at whose hands Seneca was ultimately killed.
In Letter XV, Seneca quotes Epicurus:
The life of folly is empty of gratitude, full of anxiety: it is focused wholly on the future.
In “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” Matthew Crawford offers a interesting throwback solution to the lack of opportunity that confronts so many Americans–young and old–in this post recession era. The solution, according to Crawford, is to be found in the skilled trades. Here, I offer a deliberately critical review of Crawford’s book, but before I do so, I point out some of the insights that Crawford gives in this thoughtful, worthwhile read.