You Wouldn’t Believe (The Legend of the Accursed Potato Chip)

I live in an American household that manages to make potato chips unpalatable. Let that point sink in.


Behavioral Mysteries Are A Lot Easier to Solve if You Just Accept the Fact That Most People Are Inherently Miserable and Cruel


It’s never really that people don’t understand; we always say it as if they are somehow confused, when they are not. Like this:

• Why do people fail to understand that if someone should expect to be criticized every time they walk into the room, to the point that one can actually watch people look around for something to complain about, then no, that person will not want to be in the room with you.

It is not that everyday belligerence doesn’t understand; these people do. It is not that they are somehow confused about why the constant hostility distresses anyone; they aren’t.

If there is any one thing you ask people to not do, they will do it.

Everyday Whatnot


So, there is this thing people do, sometimes, and perhaps it is perfectly human behavior, except when it is so clearly statistically deviantα. Or maybe it’s just something about perception. Sometimes we exist in an environment where simple things are impossible: I am writing something; my coffee cup is empty; if you wish to take odds, no, I cannot manage to go refill my coffee cup without someone demanding that I stop what I am doing and undertake another task. And perhaps that summary sounds a bit pointed, but when you can watch someone get up and start searching the room for something to give you, they make some sort of point: Here is something that looks like it has a deadline in about four weeks; you need to stop what you are doing and do this thing right now.

And if you ask about this phenomenon, the one thing people don’t do is explain why they can’t leave you to what you’re doing; indeed, very often they come right out and—what, confess? admit? acknowledge? chide?—say the one has nothing to do with the other.


α There is, of course, a recursive dive into the question acknowledging that statistical deviance, real or perceived, is itself perfectly human; this is, to the one, a seemingly legitimate existential consideration, and, to the other, a nihilistic rabbit hole.

How Stupid | #trumpstupid

#trumpstupid | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

There comes a point at which it seems the most straightforward explanation seems, quite simply, that Donald Trump does not understand how much trouble he cannot get out of.


Image note: Detail of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Priorities and Practicality

Detail of 'Relativity' by M.C. Escher, 1953.

Paula M. Fitzgibbons explains:

It’s possible my daughter’s condition is unavoidable—that she was born with a fear of death imprinted on her genes. There is plenty of precedent in my family, with an unbroken line of anxiety-ridden women stretching back to my great-great grandmother, who made a harrowing journey from Ireland to the United States. Researchers do believe there’s a genetic component to anxiety, but for a time, I believed my daughter was additionally cursed by epigenetics, or the idea that our experiences can write themselves into our children’s DNA. I’ve since abandoned the idea—the science of epigenetics is still sketchy, and I don’t have the time or mental energy to devote to an unproven concept when our problem is more immediate. My daughter’s anxiety is interrupting her daily life and nightly sleep.”

It seems almost petty to point out, but given the stakes I think it very important to acknowledge we witness, in this passage, the temptation of pseudoscience, and the practical gravity drawing one away from such shiny and dangerous notions. While the epigenetics of fear are, indeed, mind-boggling, the point is that virtually nothing about the concept is sound, yet. Or, as Lisa Simpson once said, “You don’t control the birds. You will, someday, but not now.” That mice verge on the Lamarckian when conditioned in a context of mortal fear and the torture to inspire it is a far cry from what’s going on with human beings; and while it’s true I haven’t followed this question so closely over the last few years, it’s also one of those subjects we would have heard something about if someone achieved any sort of definitive answer about anything. There are myriad reasons to be tempted by epigenetics in these aspects, but behavioral epigenetics does not at this time a sound science make.


Fitzgibbons, Paula M. “Watching My Daughter Develop the Same Anxiety I Struggle With”. The Cut. 12 September 2017.

¿Who You Gonna Call?

In recent days, two television adverts, one for an insurance company and another for home security services, have drawn my attention for alleged customer testimonial that skipped over first responders. No, really:

• Crime, therefore call insurance company before callng police.

• Fire, therefore call home security company, who in turn called fire department for you.

In truth, I have no idea how to feel about this. And, you know, there was also something else that flitted by in those spots, but, honestly, the implications of spinning narrative would be entirely on my own conscience, and it’s not a pleasing prospect; even worse would be noticing something we are expected to notice—you know, a feature, not a bug. Never mind. It is enough to simply wonder at skipping out on first responders.

Live Through This

¡Freak Flag Fly!


Question Are state same-sex marriage policies associated with a reduction in adolescent suicide attempts?

Findings This difference-in-differences analysis of representative data from 47 states found that same-sex marriage policies were associated with a 7% reduction in the proportion of all high school students reporting a suicide attempt within the past year. The effect was concentrated among adolescents who were sexual minorities.

Meaning Same-sex marriage policies are associated with reduced adolescent suicide attempts.

(Raifman, et al.)

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