Is work good or bad? A fatuous question, it may seem, with unemployment such a pressing national concern. (Apart from the names of the two candidates, “jobs” was the politically relevant word most used by speakers at the Republican and Democratic conventions.) Even apart from current worries, the goodness of work is deep in our culture. We applaud people for their work ethic, judge our economy by its productivity and even honor work with a national holiday.
But there’s an underlying ambivalence: we celebrate Labor Day by not working, the Book of Genesis says work is punishment for Adam’s sin, and many of us count the days to the next vacation and see a contented retirement as the only reason for working.
We’re ambivalent about work because in our capitalist system it means work-for-pay (wage-labor), not for its own sake. It is what philosophers call an instrumental good, something valuable not in itself but for what we can use it to achieve. For most of us, a paying job is still utterly essential — as masses of unemployed people know all too well. But in our economic system, most of us inevitably see our work as a means to something else: it makes a living, but it doesn’t make a life.
What, then, is work for? Aristotle has a striking answer: “we work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.” This may at first seem absurd. How can we be happy just doing nothing, however sweetly (dolce far niente)? Doesn’t idleness lead to boredom, the life-destroying ennui portrayed in so many novels, at least since “Madame Bovary”?
Everything depends on how we understand leisure. Is it mere idleness, simply doing nothing? Then a life of leisure is at best boring (a lesson of Voltaire’s “Candide”), and at worst terrifying (leaving us, as Pascal says, with nothing to distract from the thought of death). No, the leisure Aristotle has in mind is productive activity enjoyed for its own sake, while work is done for something else.
We can pass by for now the question of just what activities are truly enjoyable for their own sake — perhaps eating and drinking, sports, love, adventure, art, contemplation? The point is that engaging in such activities — and sharing them with others — is what makes a good life. Leisure, not work, should be our primary goal.
Read it all HERE.
Shh, a roundup of things we’ve heard …
Here’s a roundup of tidbits of news and deals by government and contractor players in Top Secret America that we’ve recently heard.
We picked these because either (a) there are mega bucks involved that will make your head spin; or (b) they make you say, hmm, that’s an interesting, gee whiz technology.
*Wheel of Fortune — As Pat Sajak’s contestants would say on his game show, “Big money, Big money! — The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) spent $8.3 billion in the past few weeks with contractors to do its spy work.
In one deal, DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colo., won a contract worth $3.5 billion and in another GeoEye Imagery Collection Systems of Dulles received a $3.8 billion contract. The contracts are part of the “EnhancedView” commercial imagery program. Under the agreements, the companies will “help meet the increasing geospatial intelligence needs of the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense,” according to the NGA. Translation: The companies will use some of the money to build new satellites and get them into orbit. The deals could go for 10 years, if the government extends the option years.
They weren’t the only ones to hit the wheel big from NGA.
NGA threw some greenbacks to SAIC, too. It won a share of TASER — no, it is not some sort of police stun gun. It is the “Total Application Services for Enterprise Requirements” contract, a five-year deal that’s an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract with a total value of $1 billion for SAIC and a host of other big players, including BAE, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Booz Allen Hamilton. SAIC said it will “research and implement innovative solutions to emerging critical geospatial intelligence requirements,” as part of the deal.
NationMaster “Country comparisons using graphs, maps. Huge database of world statistics. Reference site contains country statistics, maps, flags, graphs and pie charts.”
A person’s gender is biologically determined by the sex chromosomes, one set of a human’s 23 pairs of chromosomes. Women have two X chromosomes, while men have one X and one Y chromosome. – Provided by RandomHistory.com
La Tomatina 2012 – The Big Picture
La Tomatina is a festival that is held in the Valencian town of Bunol, located inland from the Mediterranean Sea, that brings together thousands of people for one big tomato fight – purely for fun! It is held on the last Wednesday of August, during the week of festivities of Bunol. One theory – the most popular of many theories – about the origins of the “fight” dates back to 1945, when (during a parade) young men staged a brawl in the town’s main square, the Plaza del Pueblo. There was a vegetable stand nearby, so they picked up tomatoes and used them as weapons. The police had to intervene to break up the fight and forced those responsible to pay the damages incurred. — Paula Nelson (26 photos total)
Cheetah Robot Bests Bolt’s Sprint Speed
A four-legged robot developed through funding from the US military is able to run faster than the fastest human. The robot, named Cheetah, set a new world speed record for legged robots, reaching 28.3 mph (45.5 km/h) during a treadmill test run. By comparison, the world’s fastest human, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, has a top speed of 27.78 mph (44.7 km/h). The robot’s design is based in part on the anatomy of cheetahs, which, as the fastest land animals, are able to attain speeds up to 75 mph (121 km/h).
Lampião (a very famous Brazilian outlaw) and his gang of Cangaceiros heads on display after their death on a police ambush in 1938
How Many Sex Partners Women “Should” Have
How many people should a woman sleep with in her lifetime? Many people think they know the exact right answer.
Now, a technique to regularise abnormal heartbeats – The Times of India.
Hannah’s Anecdote | Watch Free Documentary Online
This is a film about Hannah Bradley who was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in 2011, age 26.
Even after surgery and radiotherapy, Hannah’s future was still severely limited. Her partner Pete Cohen searched for a solution and found Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski.
Burzynski had been developing a treatment for cancer for over 40 years. Although very controversial and expensive, Hannah was accepted onto phase 2 of an FDA trial for the treatment in Texas. This is their story.
Asia’s next revolution
ASIA’S economies have long wowed the world with their dynamism. Thanks to years of spectacular growth, more people have been pulled from abject poverty in modern Asia than at any other time in history. But as they become more affluent, the region’s citizens want more from their governments. Across the continent pressure is growing for public pensions, national health insurance, unemployment benefits and other hallmarks of social protection. As a result, the world’s most vibrant economies are shifting gear, away from simply building wealth towards building a welfare state.
The speed and scale of this shift are mind-boggling (see article). Last October Indonesia’s government promised to provide all its citizens with health insurance by 2014. It is building the biggest “single-payer” national health scheme—where one government outfit collects the contributions and foots the bills—in the world. In just two years China has extended pension coverage to an additional 240m rural folk, far more than the total number of people covered by Social Security, America’s public-pension system. A few years ago about 80% of people in rural China had no health insurance. Now virtually everyone does. In India some 40m households benefit from a government scheme to provide up to 100 days’ work a year at the minimum wage, and the state has extended health insurance to some 110m poor people, more than double the number of uninsured in America.
If you take Germany’s introduction of pensions in the 1880s as the beginning and Britain’s launch of its National Health Service in 1948 as the apogee, the creation of Europe’s welfare states took more than half a century. Some Asian countries will build theirs in a decade. If they get things wrong, especially through unaffordable promises, they could wreck the world’s most dynamic economies. But if they create affordable safety nets, they will not just improve life for their own citizens but also become role models themselves. At a time when governments in the rich world are failing to redesign states to cope with ageing populations and gaping budget deficits, this could be another area where Asia leapfrogs the West.
Is this a controversial gay rights ad?
HUMANS are peculiar as a species, so what makes them so must be hidden in their genome. To an almost disconcerting extent, though, the human genome looks similar to the genomes of other primates, especially when it comes to the particular proteins it allows cells to make. The powerful new ways of looking at the genome being pioneered by the ENCODE consortium (see article), though, provide ways to seek out the subtle species-specific signals. Lucas Ward and Manolis Kellis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report on the results of such sleuthing in a paper just published in Science.
The two researchers used data from ENCODE to identify the bits of the genome that actually do things and data from the 1,000 Genomes Project, which has studied human-genome variation across hundreds of people, to discover how much these functional elements vary from person to person. In particular, they looked for telltales that an element is being maintained by natural selection. If something is evolutionarily important then random variations in its DNA sequence will be slowly eliminated from the population, keeping it on the functional straight and narrow in a process known as purifying selection.
Photos: What is Street Food?
Robyn Eckhardt asks a deceptively simple question on Eating Asia: what is street food? The answer seems obvious, because street food is food that is bought and consumed on the street. Pretzels? Okay. Noodle soups? Sure. Satay? Of course. But there’s more to it. Eckhart writes that, beyond location, the essence of street food comes from three crucial elements: “immediacy, proximity and specialization.”
It’s an interesting argument because it upends traditional notions of street food. Hong Kong’s dai pai dong are generally seen as street food, but when they serve two dozen tables with a menu of 50 dishes, they fail to meet any one of Eckhardt’s criteria. They’re outdoor restaurants more than anything else. By the same token, the hawker centres of Singapore and kopi tiam of Malaysia serve street food even if they are technically off-street food courts.
Last March, I found myself in Puerto Vallarta, a town in the Mexican state of Jalisco, which is where tequila and mariachi music come from. Vallarta is a balneario — a seaside resort town — and it was little more than an obscure fishing village until tourists began arriving in the middle of the twentieth century. But it’s a surprisingly pleasant place, without too much of the spring break tackiness associated with resorts like Cancun or Cabo San Lucas. It doesn’t take much effort to stray into neighbourhoods that feel pretty normal, and this being Mexico, normal means an abundance of street food.
The earliest known photograph of men drinking beer. Edinburgh Ale, 1844, by Hill & Adamson. via.