California fire: What started as a tiny brush fire became the state’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how – Los Angeles Times

Terrifying accounts of escape from the California Camp Fire.

The fire caught up to Jolly on Pearson Road, blasting her car with heat. She reached for the stethoscope slung around her neck and flinched as the metal burned. Her steering wheel was melting — the plastic stuck to her hands.

As her car caught fire and began to fill with black smoke, she called her husband. “Run,” he told her.

Jolly fled for safety to the car ahead of hers, but it too was abandoned. She ran on.The rubber on her shoes melted into the asphalt. The back of her scrubs caught fire, blistering her legs. She tried another car, but it wasn’t moving.

“I can’t die like this,” she told herself. “There’s no way I’m going to die sitting in a car. I have to run.”

Source: California fire: What started as a tiny brush fire became the state’s deadliest wildfire. Here’s how – Los Angeles Times

Critic’s Notebook: ‘Frontline’ Doc ‘The Facebook Dilemma’ May Scare You Off Social Media | Hollywood Reporter

The two-part ‘Frontline’ special presents a chilling portrait of a social media behemoth that cares more about profits than its users’ privacy.If you’re reading this article, you’ve presumably taken a break from logging on to Facebook to catch up with such important developments as your cousin’s recent trip to Disney World. But if you really want to end your addiction to the social media monolith, watch the two-part Frontline documentary The Facebook Dilemma, airing Monday and Tuesday night on PBS. If this deeply disturbing investigative report doesn’t scare you straight, nothing will.

Directed by James Jacoby, the film recounts how Facebook’s success at connecting the world has come at a very high cost. In the old days before the internet, people would get their information from reputable print and broadcast media that was actually curated and edited. Now the vast majority get the news from a website that takes almost no responsibility for what it spews into the world. Say what you will about The New York Times and CNN, but unless Dean Baquet and Jeff Zucker are Manchurian Candidates, Russia hasn’t managed to infiltrate, either.

Source: Critic’s Notebook: ‘Frontline’ Doc ‘The Facebook Dilemma’ May Scare You Off Social Media | Hollywood Reporter

How Your Gut Bacteria May Be Controlling Your Brain

The gut has made a sudden rise to prominence as an arbiter of overall health. It’s well established that gut bacteria, also known as the microbiome, can influence digestion, allergies and metabolism. But these microbes’ reach may extend much further – into the brain. Conditions including depression and anxiety are now being linked to the digestive system.

The brain may be one of the most complex objects known to humankind, but science has suggested the digestive system is of equal importance, especially when it comes to our emotional health. Your gut is teeming with trillions of bacteria, making up what’s known as the microbiome. Collectively weighing up to two kilograms (heavier than the average brain), the microbiome plays a vital role in your health, breaking down food, supporting immunity and, perhaps surprisingly, affecting mood. Nutritionist Rebecca Pilkington believes keeping the microbiome balanced is the key to optimal physical and mental health. “If your gut is out of whack,” she says, “this can lead to inflammation, believed to be one of the biggest causes of depression.”

Source: How Your Gut Bacteria May Be Controlling Your Brain

This North Carolina gerrymandering lawsuit is poised to save democracy in the state by 2020.

Slate covers the gerrymandering lawsuit.

North Carolina Republicans have spent the last eight years ruthlessly undermining democracy in their state. The key to their extraordinary success is a series of partisan gerrymanders that dilute the power of Democrats’ vote, allowing the GOP to maintain a firm grasp on the state legislature. But Republicans failed to subvert the one institution capable of reversing this damage to fair representation: the state judiciary. Now voting rights advocates are poised to score a legal victory in North Carolina that could wipe out the GOP’s legislative gerrymander—with the help of civil rights attorney Anita Earls, who was elected to the state Supreme Court last week. The case could give Democrats a real shot at retaking the legislature in 2020, or at least contesting it on an even playing field.

Source: This North Carolina gerrymandering lawsuit is poised to save democracy in the state by 2020.

Michael McFaul | Containing Putin’s Russia

Relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated to their most dangerous point in decades. The current situation is not, as many have dubbed it, a new Cold War. But no one should draw much comfort from the ways in which today’s standoff differs from the earlier one. The quantitative nuclear arms race is over, but Russia and the United States have begun a new qualitative arms race in nuclear delivery vehicles, missile defenses, and digital weapons. The two countries are no longer engulfed in proxy wars, but over the last decade, Russia has demonstrated less and less restraint in its use of military power. The worldwide ideological struggle between capitalism and communism is history, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has anointed himself the leader of a renewed nationalist, conservative movement fighting a decadent West. To spread these ideas, the Russian government has made huge investments in television and radio stations, social media networks, and Internet “troll farms,” and it has spent lavishly in support of like-minded politicians abroad. The best description of the current hostilities is not cold war but hot peace.

Source: Michael McFaul | Containing Putin’s Russia

Behind the Scenes at a Bundy Rally | Outside Online

If there was a defining trait among the several dozen people who gathered recently to hear Ammon Bundy speak at the New Code of the West conference in Whitefish, Montana, it was their age—on average, well into eligibility for Social Security benefits. I don’t mention this to promote ageist ideas about who should be involved in political activism—the baby boomers comprise the largest voting bloc in America—but rather to suggest that the “Bundy movement,” such as it exists, appears conspicuously long in the tooth.

Source: Behind the Scenes at a Bundy Rally | Outside Online

The lost art of whistling loudly with your fingers – if stranded it could save your life – Outdoor Revival

When most people think about loud whistling, they often think about trying to get someone’s attention or perhaps even using it as a survival skill in the woods.

Although humans have used loud whistling for hundreds, and perhaps thousands of years, it is a dying art. Here’s how you can learn to do it, and the history behind your newest survival skill.

There are many different ways to achieve a loud whistle with your fingers. According to the Art of Manliness, regardless of which finger placement you choose, the next steps are all identical; it is simply a matter of finding what works for you.

First, you need to wet your lips and curl them back over your teeth as if you were imitating an old person who’d forgotten to put in their dentures that morning.Next, you put your fingers in your mouth using your desired placement and hold your bottom lip curled in while pushing your tongue back in your mouth.

This step is a little complicated and can take some practice to get right, but generally, you push on the bottom of the tip of your tongue so that it curls upwards while simultaneously being pushed back by your fingers. Then, keeping your lips curled, you close your mouth over your fingers creating an airtight seal — and blow.

Source: The lost art of whistling loudly with your fingers – if stranded it could save your life – Outdoor Revival

Alan Frederick Swanstrom Obituary – Cary, NC


I learned last night that my friend Al Swanstrom died last week. I originally knew Al through my working with his wife, Pam, back at HAHT Software over twenty years ago. Al was so sharp, friendly, and funny. It was always fun trading quips with him. When he campaigned for a state senate seat a few years ago I did not think twice about standing for hours outside a polling place in “unfriendly territory” to help support him. It was sad to learn he was ill.

My thoughts are with Pam and her family in this difficult time.

Having been born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Al was an avid Packers fan. He was also very proud of his father’s Swedish heritage and recently connected with his Swedish relatives.

Al was an IBMer for over 30 years and traveled worldwide in various roles. During his career, Al was granted several patents. After retirement, Al dedicated his time to public service, including serving on the Town of Cary Planning Board, Wake County Planning Board (Chair), and North Carolina Turnpike Authority. Throughout, Al was a tireless volunteer for Triangle Wine Experience and Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.

Al was the architect of his life and many things of beauty. He was happiest sailing and diving with his family, woodworking, working on his cars, designing a new technical solution and spending time with the “Coffee Gang.”

He was an officer of the Triangle Bailliage de North Carolina of the Chaîne de Rotisseurs and a past Maître of the Triangle NC Chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux. Al shared his knowledge of wine and passion for culinary arts with friends in both organizations. He was a great host and welcomed friends into his home.

Source: Alan Frederick Swanstrom Obituary – Cary, NC

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi Have No Idea What Kind of Fight They’re In | GQ

Democrats need to do better at building our bench – I’m not anti-Pelosi but it’s long past time to be grooming new leadership.

One day. All I wanted was one little day to bask in the election results and delude myself into thinking that, by taking the House, Democrats would provide at least some bulwark against the wave of right-wing fascism that is currently holding this nation hostage. I wanted a day. Instead, we got Chuck Schumer.

Here is a great waste of a man: spineless, craven, utterly terrified of being disliked by the opposition. The past two years have been an ongoing national emergency, with a deranged liar sitting in the Oval Office and a Republican Party newly emboldened by that president’s racism and disregard for facts and law. They’re robbing taxpayers blind. They’re menacing the vulnerable. They’re overseeing sham investigations into corrupt judges and ramming them through. They’re trying to stop ballot counts in Florida as we speak. The White House press secretary literally sent out doctored footage of a reporter to accuse him of assault. There’s no hope of good faith with these assholes. They are EATING America alive, and the proof is on the ground. Mass shootings are happening daily. Kids are locked in jails. We need goddamn Superman to fix this, and instead we’re getting these two:

Source: Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi Have No Idea What Kind of Fight They’re In | GQ

2018 midterms: New scientists elected to US House, Senate – Business Insider

We definitely need more scientists and more veterans on Capitol Hill. I found 314 Action a few years ago and enthusiastically support its work.

The faces of Capitol Hill are changing.

When the 116th Congress heads to Washington in January, there will be a record number of women in the ranks — at least 123, according to the news website Axios, including the first Muslim women, the first Somali-American, and the first Native American women.

There will be more scientists too.

On Tuesday, at least eight new science-credentialed candidates were elected: one senator and seven members of the House. Full results are not yet available in Washington state, where a pediatrician is likely to be elected to the House.

The members of the 115th Congress include one physicist, one microbiologist, and one chemist, as well as eight engineers and one mathematician. The medical professions are slightly better represented, with three nurses and 15 doctors.

The new winners will bolster those science ranks. The Democratic candidates who won all ran successful campaigns with the support of a nonprofit political-action committee called 314 Action, which started in 2016 and is dedicated to recruiting, training, and funding scientists and healthcare workers who want to run for political office. (One Republican engineer-turned-businessman won a race in Oklahoma, without support from the PAC.)

“Scientists are essentially problem-solvers,” Shaughnessy Naughton, the president of 314 Action, told Business Insider before the election results came in.

Source: 2018 midterms: New scientists elected to US House, Senate – Business Insider