October 5, 2015

Reasonable Person

duty of care

dwight Schrute by Cindy Lesman

In law, a ‘reasonable person‘ is a composite of a relevant community’s judgment as to how a typical member of said community should behave in situations that might pose a threat of harm (through action or inaction) to the public. It is an emergent concept of common law (judicial precedent), with no accepted technical definition. As a legal fiction (a fact assumed by courts for purposes of expediency), the ‘reasonable person’ is not an average person or a typical person, leading to great difficulties in applying the concept in some criminal cases, especially in regards to the partial defence of provocation.

Legal humorist A. P. Herbert called the reasonable person an ‘excellent but odious character’: ‘He is an ideal, a standard, the embodiment of all those qualities which we demand of the good citizen … [he] invariably looks where he is going, … is careful to examine the immediate foreground before he executes a leap or bound; … neither stargazes nor is lost in meditation when approaching trapdoors or the margins of a dock; … never mounts a moving [bus] and does not alight from any car while the train is in motion, … uses nothing except in moderation, and even flogs his child in meditating only on the golden mean.’ Continue reading

October 4, 2015

Sukkah City

Sukkah City

Sukkah [sook-uhCity was a 2010 architectural design competition and work of installation art planned in New York City’s Union Square Park. A sukkah is the name given to a structure described in Torah (Jewish Bible). The Children of Israel were instructed to annually commemorate their Exodus from Egypt by dwelling for seven days every autumn in temporary structures reminiscent of those in which they lived during their 40 years of wandering in the desert before settling in the Land of Israel. Many Jews continue this practice to this day, and Sukkah City aims to re-imagine the sukkah in contemporary design.

A committee of art critics and architects selected 12 winners from a field of over 600 entries. The twelve winning sukkot were constructed at Brooklyn’s Gowanus Studio Space, and driven by truck to Union Square Park for display on September 19 and 20 from dawn to dusk. The design chosen as ‘the people’s choice,’ entitled ‘Fractured Bubble’ by Long Island City architects Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan, stood for the requisite seven days of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The competition was the brainchild of journalists Joshua Foer and Roger Bennett. It was sponsored by Reboot, an organization that aims to catalyze innovation in Jewish culture, rituals, and traditions. Continue reading

October 3, 2015

Joshua Foer

Moonwalking with Einstein

Adderall Me

Joshua Foer (b. 1982) is a freelance journalist living in Connecticut, with a primary focus on hard sciences. He was the 2006 USA Memory Champion, whichwas described in his 2011 book, ‘Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.’ Foer set a new US record in the ‘speed cards’ event by memorizing a deck of 52 cards in 1 minute and 40 seconds. His book describes his journey from participatory journalist to national champion mnemonist, under the tutelage of British Grand Master of Memory, Ed Cooke. Penguin paid a $1.2 million advance for publishing rights, and the film rights were optioned by Columbia Pictures shortly after publication.

Foer was born in Washington, DC to Esther Foer, Director of Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, and Albert Foer, the president of the American Antitrust Institute, an antitrust watchdog. He is the younger brother of former ‘The New Republic’ editor Franklin Foer and novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. Josh has organized several websites and organizations based on his interests. He created the ‘Athanasius Kircher Society,’ which had only one session, featuring savant Kim Peek and proto-astronaut Joseph Kittinger. He is the co-founder of the ‘Atlas Obscura,’ an online compendium of ‘The World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica.’ He is also a co-organizer of ‘Sukkah City’ a Kosher architectural design competition, and Sefaria, a non-profit dedicated to building digital experiences and infrastructure for Jewish texts.

October 2, 2015

Culture of Honor

Albions Seed

The traditional culture of the Southern United States has been called a ‘culture of honor,’ where people avoid intentionally offending others, and maintain a reputation for not accepting improper conduct by others. A prevalent theory as to why the American South had or may have this culture is an assumed regional belief in retribution to enforce one’s rights and deter predation against one’s family, home, and possessions.

Southern culture is thought to have its roots in the livelihoods of the early settlers who first inhabited the region. New England was mostly comprised of agriculturalist colonists from densely populated South East England and East Anglia, but the Southern United States was mostly settled by herders from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern England, and the West Country. Herds, unlike crops, are vulnerable to theft because they are mobile and there is little government wherewithal to enforce property rights of herd animals. A reputation for violent retribution against those who stole animals was a necessary deterrent at the time. Continue reading

October 1, 2015

Doctor Fox Effect

WC Fields by Nick Reekie

The Dr. Fox effect states that even experts will be fooled by a nonsensical lecture if it is delivered with warmth, liveliness, and humor. A 1980 study found that the perceived prestige of research is increased by using a confounding writing style, with research competency being positively correlated to reading difficulty.

The original experiment was conducted at USC School Of Medicine in 1970. Two speakers gave lectures to a classroom of psychiatrists and psychologists on a topic the attendees were unfamiliar with (‘Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education’). The control group was lectured by an actual scientist and the other by an actor who was given the identity ‘Dr. Myron L. Fox,’ a graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Continue reading

September 30, 2015


Steam Man of the Prairies

Edisonade is a modern term, coined in 1993 by John Clute in his and Peter Nicholls’ ‘The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction,’ for fictional stories about a brilliant young inventor and his inventions. This subgenre started in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and had its apex of popularity during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was common in ‘scientific romance,’ an archaic term for the genre of fiction now known as ‘science fiction.’

The term ‘Edisonade’ originated in the 1850s to describe both fiction and elements of scientific writing, but has since come to refer to the science fiction of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, primarily that of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle. In recent years, the term has come to be applied to science fiction written in a deliberately anachronistic style, as a homage to or pastiche of the original scientific romances. Continue reading

September 29, 2015

A Short History of Progress

domesticated monkey by Nicklas Gustafsson

A Short History of Progress is a nonfiction book and lecture series by Canadian author Ronald Wright about societal collapse. The lectures were delivered as a series of five speeches, each taking place in different cities across Canada as part of the 2004 ‘Massey Lectures’ (an annual series of lectures on a political, cultural or philosophical topic given in Canada by a noted scholar) which were broadcast on the CBC Radio program, ‘Ideas.’

Wright, an author of fiction and nonfiction works, uses the fallen civilizations of Easter Island, Sumeria, Rome, and Maya, as well as examples from the Stone Age, to see what conditions led to the downfall of those societies. He examines the meaning of progress and its implications for civilizations—past and present—arguing that the twentieth century was a time of runaway growth in human population, consumption, and technology that has now placed an unsustainable burden on all natural systems. Continue reading

September 28, 2015

Jerry DeWitt

jerry dewitt

Community Mission Chapel

Jerry DeWitt is an American author and public speaker, and a prominent member of the American atheism movement. He is a former pastor of two evangelical churches, who publicly deconverted to atheism in 2011. DeWitt is the former executive director of ‘Recovering From Religion,’ a group which helps people find their way after a loss of faith.

He currently leads the ‘Community Mission Chapel,’ which DeWitt calls an ‘atheist church.’ In a story for the ‘New York Times,’ he said, ‘Just because we value critical thinking and the scientific method, that doesn’t mean we suddenly become disembodied and we can no longer benefit from our emotional lives.’ Continue reading

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September 28, 2015

Tinker Hatfield

Air Jordan XI

nike mag

Tinker Hatfield (b. 1952) is the designer of many of Nike’s most popular and innovative athletic shoe designs, including the Air Jordan 3 through Air Jordan 15, the twentieth anniversary Air Jordan, the Air Jordan XXIII, XXV, XXIX, and other athletic sneakers including the world’s first ‘cross training’ shoes, the Nike Air Trainer. Hatfield oversees Nike’s ‘Innovation Kitchen.’ He is Nike’s Vice President for Design and Special Projects.

He attended the University of Oregon, where he ran track for coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, and at one time had the pole-vault record at the school. Academically, he studied architecture and graduated with a degree from the University of Oregon School of Architecture. Hatfield joined Nike in 1981, and in 1985 started working on shoe design, believing that his architectural skills could be applied to footwear.  Continue reading

September 27, 2015

Protection Racket


A protection racket is a scheme whereby a group provides protection to businesses or other groups through violence outside the sanction of the law. Through the credible threat of violence, the racketeers deter people from swindling, robbing, injuring, sabotaging or otherwise harming their clients. Protection rackets tend to appear in markets where the police and judiciary cannot be counted on to provide legal protection, either because of incompetence (as in weak or failed states) or illegality (black markets).

Protection rackets are often indistinguishable in practice from extortion rackets since, for the latter, there will be an implied threat that the racketeers themselves may attack the business if it fails to pay for their protection. In an extortion racket, the racketeers agree simply to not attack a business. In a protection racket the criminals agree to defend a business from any attack. Conversely, extortion racketeers will have to defend their clients if threatened by a rival gang to avoid the client transferring their allegiance. Continue reading

September 24, 2015




Rent-seeking is attempting to take advantage of a pre-existing resource without improving it. According to Nobel Laureate economist Robert Shiller the classic example is that of a feudal lord who installs a chain across a river that flows through his land and then hires a collector to charge passing boats a fee (or rent of the section of the river for a few minutes) to lower the chain. There is nothing productive about the chain or the collector. The lord has made no improvements to the river and is helping nobody in any way, directly or indirectly, except himself. All he is doing is finding a way to make money from something that used to be free.

An example of rent-seeking in a modern economy is spending money on political lobbying for government benefits or subsidies in order to be given a share of wealth that has already been created, or to impose regulations on competitors, in order to increase market share. Continue reading

September 23, 2015


break fast

kol nidre by lazarovic

Fasting is primarily an act of willing abstinence or reduction from certain or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually 24 hours. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive, limiting particular foods or substances. The fast may also be intermittent in nature.

Fasting practices may preclude sexual intercourse and other activities as well as food. Extended fasting has been recommended as therapy for various conditions by health professionals of many cultures, throughout history, from ancient to modern. Fasting is also a part of many religious observances.

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