Thursday, November 26, 2015


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The chief objection to the New England Puritans, of course,
is not that they burned Indians at the stake... but that
they cursed the country with crude cookery and uneatable
victuals. The pumpkin pie, clam chowder, the mince pie,
pork and beans--these are some of the awful things we have
inherited from those gross amd chilblained moralists. The
common notion that they also gave us roast turkey, with its
attendant sauce of cranberries, is an error arising out of
the imbecility of the persons who manufacture covers for
the November magazines. As a matter of fact, the turkey was
unknown in New England until the downfall of the theocracy
and the repeal of the blue laws against intellectual eating.
The customary Thanksgiving fowl, in witch-burning days, was
the common jack rabbit, with the puddle duck as an
occasional variant. The turkey, as every sophomore in
victuality is aware, really hails from Virginia, and the
cranberry from the miasmatic marshes of New Jersey...

--H.L. Mencken, "The Fried Smelt," Baltimore _Evening Sun_,
1910 December 17.


A Serf's Thanksgiving

Thank you for the widow's cry,
For a hovel like a sty.
Thank you for the bitter cold
For all the joys of growing old.

Thank you for each loathe disease,
For all the tyrants at their ease.
Thank you for our hunger pangs,
For itchy rash and tiger fangs.

Thank you for each child that dies,
For priestly frauds and bishops' lies.
Thank you for each rotten smell,
For penance, Purgatory, Hell.

Thank you for each "witch's" fate,
For ignorance and fear and hate.
Thank you for the spider's sting.
Thank you, God, for everything.

--Robert W. Whitaker, ca. 1975


Art Buchwald: Chacun à son goût, or why we eat turkey


Mrs. Paris Singer was attending a garage sale in Bethesda when she
came across a yellowed newspaper clipping dated 1952. It was titled
"Explaining Thanksgiving to the French." She bought it for $10.
Much to her surprise, when she took it to an expert at the Library
of Congress, he told her it was a collector's item, and there were
only five of them left in the world. It was valued at $80,000. It
now hangs in Mrs. Singer's living room under glass.

[Most sources say 1953. The first paragraph may have been added in
subsequent reprintings.]

This confidential column was leaked to me by a high government
official in the Plymouth colony on the condition that I not reveal
his name.

One of our most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in
France as le Jour de Merci Donnant.

Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of Pilgrims
(Pèlerins) who fled from l'Angleterre before the McCarran Act to
found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde) where they could
shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their
heart's content.

They landed at a place called Plymouth (a famous voiture
Américaine) in a wooden sailing ship called the Mayflower (or Fleur
de Mai) in 1620. But while the Pèlerins were killing the dindes,
the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pèlerins, and there were several
hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges
helped the Pèlerins was when they taught them to grow corn (maïs).

The reason they did this was because they liked corn with their

In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pèlerins' crops were so good
that they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because
more maïs was raised by the Pèlerins than Pèlerins were killed by

Every year on the Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their
children an amusing story about the first celebration.

It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France
as Kilomètres Deboutish) and a young, shy lieutenant named Jean
Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called
Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the
jeune lieutenant:

"Go to the damsel Priscilla (allez très vite chez Priscilla), the
loveliest maiden of Plymouth (la plus jolie demoiselle de
Plymouth). Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of
action (un vieux Fanfan la Tulipe), offers his hand and his heart,
the hand and heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you know, but
this, in short, is my meaning.

"I am a maker of war (je suis un fabricant de la guerre) and not a
maker of phrases. You, bred as a scholar (vous, qui êtes pain comme
un etudiant), can say it in elegant language, such as you read in
your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers, such as you
think best adapted to win the heart of the maiden."

Although Jean was fit to be tied (convenable à être emballé),
friendship prevailed over love and he went to his duty. But instead
of using elegant language, he blurted out his mission. Priscilla
was muted with amazement and sorrow (rendue muette par l'étonnement
et la tristesse).

At length she exclaimed, interrupting the ominous silence: "If the
great captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me, why does he
not come himself and take the trouble to woo me?" (Où est-il, le
vieux Kilomètres? Pourquoi ne vient-il pas auprès de moi pour
tenter sa chance?)

Jean said that Kilomètres Deboutish was very busy and didn't have
time for those things. He staggered on, telling what a wonderful
husband Kilomètres would make. Finally Priscilla arched her
eyebrows and said in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for
yourself, Jean?" (Chacun à son goût.)

And so, on the fourth Thursday in November, American families sit
down at a large table brimming with tasty dishes, and for the only
time during the year eat better than the French do.

No one can deny that le Jour de Merci Donnant is a grande fête and
no matter how well fed American families are, they never forget to
give thanks to Kilomètres Deboutish, who made this great day

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

[tt] NYT: A Century Ago, Einstein's Theory of Relativity Changed Everything

Hooray for the mention of David Hilbert!

A Century Ago, Einstein's Theory of Relativity Changed Everything


PRINCETON, N.J.--By the fall of 1915, Albert Einstein was a bit

And why not? Cheered on, to his disgust, by most of his Berlin
colleagues, Germany had started a ruinous world war. He had split up
with his wife, and she had decamped to Switzerland with his sons.

He was living alone. A friend, Janos Plesch, once said, "He sleeps
until he is awakened; he stays awake until he is told to go to bed;
he will go hungry until he is given something to eat; and then he
eats until he is stopped."

Worse, he had discovered a fatal flaw in his new theory of gravity,
propounded with great fanfare only a couple of years before. And now
he no longer had the field to himself. The German mathematician
David Hilbert was breathing down his neck.

So Einstein went back to the blackboard. And on Nov. 25, 1915, he
set down the equation that rules the universe. As compact and
mysterious as a Viking rune, it describes space-time as a kind of
sagging mattress where matter and energy, like a heavy sleeper,
distort the geometry of the cosmos to produce the effect we call
gravity, obliging light beams as well as marbles and falling apples
to follow curved paths through space.

This is the general theory of relativity. It's a standard trope in
science writing to say that some theory or experiment transformed
our understanding of space and time. General relativity really did.

Since the dawn of the scientific revolution and the days of Isaac
Newton, the discoverer of gravity, scientists and philosophers had
thought of space-time as a kind of stage on which we actors, matter
and energy, strode and strutted.

With general relativity, the stage itself sprang into action.
Space-time could curve, fold, wrap itself up around a dead star and
disappear into a black hole. It could jiggle like Santa Claus's
belly, radiating waves of gravitational compression, or whirl like
dough in a Mixmaster. It could even rip or tear. It could stretch
and grow, or it could collapse into a speck of infinite density at
the end or beginning of time.

Scientists have been lighting birthday candles for general
relativity all year, including here at the Institute for Advanced
Study, where Einstein spent the last 22 years of his life, and where
they gathered in November to review a century of gravity and to
attend performances by Brian Greene, the Columbia University
physicist and World Science Festival impresario, and the violinist
Joshua Bell. Even nature, it seems, has been doing its bit. Last
spring, astronomers said they had discovered an "Einstein cross," in
which the gravity of a distant cluster of galaxies had split the
light from a supernova beyond them into separate beams in which
telescopes could watch the star exploding again and again, in a
cosmic version of the movie "Groundhog Day."

What Is General Relativity?

Hardly anybody would be more surprised by all this than Einstein
himself. The space-time he conjured turned out to be far more frisky
than he had bargained for back in 1907.

It was then--perhaps tilting too far back in his chair at the
patent office in Bern, Switzerland--that he had the revelation
that a falling body would feel weightless. That insight led him to
try to extend his new relativity theory from slip-siding trains to
the universe.

According to that foundational theory, now known as special
relativity, the laws of physics don't care how fast you are going--
the laws of physics and the speed of light are the same. Einstein
figured that the laws of physics should look the same no matter how
you were moving--falling, spinning, tumbling or being pressed into
the seat of an accelerating car.

One consequence, Einstein quickly realized, was that even light
beams would bend downward and time would slow in a gravitational
field. Gravity was not a force transmitted across space-time like
magnetism; it was the geometry of that space-time itself that kept
the planets in their orbits and apples falling.

It would take him another eight difficult years to figure out just
how this elastic space-time would work, during which he went from
Bern to Prague to Zurich and then to a prestigious post in Berlin.

In 1913, he and his old classmate Marcel Grossmann published with
great fanfare an outline of a gravity theory that was less relative
than they had hoped. But it did predict light bending, and Erwin
Freundlich, an astronomer at the Berlin Observatory, set off to
measure the deflection of starlight during a solar eclipse in the

When World War I started, Freundlich and others on his expedition
were arrested as spies. Then Einstein discovered a flaw in his

"There are two ways that a theoretician goes astray," he wrote to
the physicist Hendrik Lorentz. "1) The devil leads him around by the
nose with a false hypothesis (for this he deserves pity) 2) His
arguments are erroneous and ridiculous (for this he deserves a

And so the stage was set for a series of lectures to the Prussian
Academy that would constitute the final countdown on his quest to
grasp gravity.

A Breakthrough Moment

Midway through the month, he used the emerging theory to calculate a
puzzling anomaly in the motion of Mercury; its egg-shaped orbit
changes by 43 seconds of arc per century. The answer was spot on,
and Einstein had heart palpitations.

The equation that Einstein wrote out a week later was identical to
one that he had written in his notebook two years before but had

On one side of the equal sign was the distribution of matter and
energy in space. On the other side was the geometry of the space,
the so-called metric, which was a prescription for how to compute
the distance between two points.

When Albert Einstein and his work first became known to the broader
public, articles in The Times often seemed to alternate between
exasperation and fascination.

As the Princeton physicist John Wheeler later described it,
"Space-time tells matter how to move; matter tells space-time how to
curve." Easy to say, but hard to compute. The stars might be actors
on a stage set, but every time they moved, the whole stage
rearranged itself.

It wasn't long before Einstein received his first comeuppance.

In December 1915, he received a telegram from Karl Schwarzschild, a
German astrophysicist serving at the front in the war, who had
solved Einstein's equation to describe the gravitational field
around a solitary star.

One strange feature of his work was that at a certain distance from
the star--to be known forever as the Schwarzschild radius--the
equations would go kerblooey.

"If this result were real, it would be a true disaster," Einstein
said. This was the beginning of black holes.

That Einstein's equations could be solved at all for a single star
baffled him. One of his guiding lights had been the Austrian
physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, who taught that everything in
the universe was relative. Einstein took Mach's Principle, as he
called it, to mean that it should be impossible to solve his
equations for the case of a solitary object.

"One can express it as a joke," he told Schwarzschild. "If all
things were to disappear from the world, then according to Newton
Galilean inertial space remains. According to my conception,
however, nothing is left."

And yet here was a star, according to his equations, bending space
all by itself, a little universe in a nutshell.

Designing a Universe

Like most of his colleagues at the time, Einstein considered the
universe to consist of a cloud of stars, the Milky Way, surrounded
by vast space. What was beyond? Was the universe infinite? And if
so, what stopped a star from drifting so far that it would have
nothing to relate to?

To avoid such problems, Einstein set out in 1917 to design a
universe without boundaries. In his model, space is bent around to
meet itself, like the side of a tin can.

"I have committed another suggestion with respect to gravitation
which exposes me to the danger of being confined to the nut house,"
he confided to a friend.

This got rid of the need for troublesome boundaries. But this
universe was unstable, and the cylinder would collapse if something
didn't hold its sides apart.

That something was a fudge factor added to the equations Einstein
called the cosmological constant. Physically, this new term, denoted
by the Greek letter lambda, represented a long-range repulsive

The happy result, Einstein thought, was a static universe of the
type nearly everybody believed they lived in and in which geometry
was strictly determined by matter.

But it didn't last. Willem de Sitter, a Dutch astronomer, came up
with his own solution describing a universe that had no matter at
all and was flying apart.

"It would be unsatisfactory, in my opinion," Einstein grumbled, "if
a world without matter were possible."

And then Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe really was

If the cosmological constant couldn't keep the universe still, then
forget about it and Mach's Principle, Einstein said. "It dates back
to the time in which one thought that the 'ponderable bodies' are
the only physically real entities," he later wrote to the British
cosmologist Felix Pirani.

But it was too late. Quantum mechanics soon invested empty space
with energy. In 1998 astronomers discovered that dark energy, acting
just like the cosmological constant, seems to be blowing space-time
apart, just as in de Sitter's universe.

In fact, most cosmologists agree today that not quite all motion is
relative and that space-time does have an existence independent of
matter, though it is anything but static and absolute. The best
example are gravitational waves, ripples of compression and
stretching speeding through empty space at the speed of light.

Einstein was back and forth on this. In 1916, he told Schwarzschild
they did not exist, then published a paper saying they did. In 1936,
he and his assistant did the same flip-flop again.

Nobody said this was easy, even for Einstein.

He set out to do one thing, namely make all motion relative, Michel
Janssen, a science historian at the University of Minnesota, told a
Princeton gathering this month. He failed, but in the process
succeeded in doing something very interesting, unifying the effects
of acceleration and gravity.

The story goes to show, he said, that Bob Dylan was right when he
sang "there's no success like failure," but wrong that "failure is
no success at all."

Einstein's greatest success came in 1919, when Arthur Eddington did
the experiment that Freundlich had set out to do, and ascertained
that lights in the heavens were all askew during an eclipse, bent by
the sun's dark gravity, just as Einstein had predicted.

Asked what he would have done if general relativity had failed,
Einstein said, "Then I would have been sorry for the dear Lord. The
theory is correct."

And still the champ.
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[tt] NYT: Ask Well: Is Lying Down as Bad for You as Sitting?

Ask Well: Is Lying Down as Bad for You as Sitting?

By Gretchen Reynolds

Q. The studies about the deleterious effects of sitting make me wonder if
this is strictly related to the sitting posture (knees bent, back
straight, feet on floor), or is it the inactivity that's the culprit? Is
lying in bed as bad as sitting and reading?

Reader Question o 1276 votes

A. The short answer is that inactivity is the culprit, whether you are
sitting or lying down.

"The mode or type of sedentary behavior doesn't matter," said John
P. Thyfault, an associate professor of molecular and integrative
physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City
who has conducted many studies of inactivity.

The problem is that we don't use our legs when we sit or lie prone.
Our legs and backside contain some of the largest muscles in our
body, which contract robustly when we are upright. In the process,
they use blood sugar to fuel themselves and stimulate the release of
biochemicals that favorably affect cholesterol levels and other
metabolic processes.

None of that happens when we sit in a chair or lounge in bed.
Instead, our big muscles are slack and levels of blood sugar and bad
cholesterol rise. In a fascinating 2010 study co-authored by Dr.
Thyfault, healthy young men were asked to make themselves sedentary.
They could choose their preferred inactivity--driving to work, for
instance, instead of walking or reading more in bed or sitting in
front of the television for hours--as long as they got off their
feet as much as possible.

Within two weeks of being more sedentary, these previously healthy
young men had begun to develop metabolic problems, including serious
insulin resistance, whether they had spent their inactive time
primarily sitting or in bed.

"Lying down will have the same deleterious effects" as sitting, Dr.
Thyfault said.

The one exception, of course, is sleep. Our bodies need those eight
hours or so of being prone in order to complete various
physiological repair processes.

But when we are awake, Dr. Thyfault said, the more we can stand up
and move, the better.
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[tt] NYT: Brawn and Brains

Brawn and Brains

By Gretchen Reynolds

Sturdy legs could mean healthy brains, according to a new study of
British twins.

As I frequently have written in this column, exercise may cause
robust improvements in brain health and slow age-related declines in
memory and thinking. Study after study has shown correlations
between physical activity, muscular health and mental acuity, even
among people who are quite old.

But these studies have limitations and one of them is that some
people may be luckier than others. They may have been born to have a
more robust brain than someone else. Their genes and early home
environment might have influenced their brain health as much as or
more than their exercise habits. Their genes and early home
environment also might have influenced those exercise habits, as
well as how their bodies and brains responded to exercise.

In other words, genes and environment can seriously confound
experimental results.

That problem makes twins so valuable for scientific purposes. (Full
disclosure, I am a twin, although not an identical one.) Twins
typically share the same early home environment and many of the same
genes, and if they are identical, all their genes are the same.

So if one twin's body, brain and thinking abilities begin to differ
substantially over the years from the other's, the cause is less
likely to be solely genetic or the early environment, and more
likely to be attributable to lifestyle, including exercise habits.

It was that possibility that recently prompted Claire Steves, a
senior lecturer in twin research at King's College London, to
consider twins and their thighs.

Muscular power, especially in the legs--which are the largest
muscles in the body--is widely accepted as a marker of healthy
aging. Older people with relatively powerful leg muscles get around
better than those with weak legs. They also tend to have sharper
minds, studies show.

But whether people's lifestyles, and in particular their exercise
habits, had provided them with good legs and minds, or whether they
had won the genetic lottery, remained unclear.

So for the new study, which was published this month in Gerontology,
Dr. Steves and her colleagues turned to the TwinUK registry, which
includes health and fitness data for thousands of British twins.

The scientists pulled records for 162 healthy, middle-aged, female
twin pairs, some of whom were identical and some not.

The scientists looked for twins who, 10 years previously, had
completed extensive computerized examinations of their memory and
thinking abilities, as well as assessments of their metabolic health
and leg-muscle power, which measure muscles' force and speed.

The scientists focused on the twins' muscles rather than their
exercise habits largely because the power measures were objective,
unlike people's notoriously unreliable recollections of how much
they have worked out. (There was a correlation, though, between more
self-reported exercise and sturdier legs.)

The scientists then asked the twins to visit a laboratory and repeat
the cognitive tests.

Twenty of the identical twin pairs also completed brain-imaging

Then the researchers compared leg power 10 years earlier with
changes in brain function over the same time period.

They found that of the 324 twins, those who had had the sturdiest
legs a decade ago showed the least fall-off in thinking skills, even
when the scientists controlled for such factors as fatty diets, high
blood pressure and shaky blood-sugar control.

The differences in thinking skills were particularly striking within
twin pairs. If one twin had been more powerful than the other 10
years before, she tended to be a much better thinker now.

In fact, on average, a muscularly powerful twin now performed about
18 percent better on memory and other cognitive tests than her
weaker sister.

Similarly, in the brain imaging of the identical twins, if one
genetically identical twin had had sturdier legs than the other at
the start of the study, she now displayed significantly more brain
volume and fewer "empty spaces in the brain" than her weaker sister,
Dr. Steves said.

Over all, among both the identical and fraternal twins, fitter legs
were strongly linked, 10 years later, to fitter brains.

Of course, this study involved only a single snapshot of the brain
health of middle-aged female twins. The scientists did not directly
study the effects of exercise on the women's brains, or look at
changes in muscular health over the 10 years and whether that
affected how well the twins could think.

The study also was not designed to uncover how muscle power builds
brainpower, Dr. Steves pointed out, although she said she suspects
that working muscles release biochemicals that travel to the brain
and affect cellular health there. And the sturdier the muscles, the
more of these chemicals they create.

More experiments obviously are needed, however, to understand these

For now, she said, the results imply that whatever your genetic
make-up, building muscles can strengthen your mind, and should your
legs currently be spindly, you might want to consider walking,
running, standing or dancing more often.

"I was quite surprised by the strength of the findings," Dr. Steves
said, "because to be honest, I am someone who has always in the past
prioritized work of the mind over work of the body. This study
brings home to me that the brain needs exercise to keep fit."
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[tt] NYT: Wired for Profit 4: For Addicts, Fantasy Sites Can Lead to Ruinous Path

I'm not sure which earlier ones I sent. Before the Uplift, we simply
observed that "a fool and his money are soon parted."

Wired for Profit 4: For Addicts, Fantasy Sites Can Lead to Ruinous Path


Addicted to a Fantasy

Josh Adams owed $30,000 to friends and family when he finally
decided to face his gambling addiction. Then he discovered fantasy

AUBURN, Ala.--A giant cardboard picture, tattered by time, rests
against a wall in Joshua Adams's home. It shows a radiant young
woman with an Auburn University corsage hugging the university's
mascot, a tiger. She is Auburn's homecoming queen--and Mr. Adams's

The university dominates this city of 60,000, with football its
spiritual center. And as Mr. Adams will attest, sports competition
extends beyond the field. "Betting for me started when I was 13
years old," he said, adding that bookies were never hard to find.

Years later, Mr. Adams relished joining his college pals in Atlanta,
where they would throw a modest sum of money into a pot and select
their fantasy football teams for a season-long competition. "It was
one of the most fun days of the year," he said. "People were getting
married and having kids, and this was the one time we would all come

The Dark World of Fantasy Sports and Online Gambling

Explore news coverage of the growing furor over daily fantasy sports,
along with the investigative series "Wired for Profit."

By then, Mr. Adams knew he had a gambling problem, but games with a
single payout after the season did not seem to him like gambling. It
was very different, though, when the action became daily, offering
quick payouts, hundreds of bets each day and six-figure cash prizes.
Mr. Adams called it "a game changer"--and counselors say they are
seeing people like Mr. Adams and are expecting many more.

"It would be akin to an alcoholic finding out about a whole new
street of bars that he never knew about--exciting, great bars," he
said. "For an addict, it wasn't what I needed." Mr. Adams said he
had lost $20,000 in daily fantasy games and tens of thousands more
in illegal sports bets. His life, consumed by gambling,
disintegrated to where he considered suicide.

Mr. Adams's story, and others like it, have been largely absent from
the cacophony of voices debating whether fantasy sports--an
unregulated multibillion-dollar industry financed by media
companies, hedge funds and professional sports organizations--
constitutes gambling.

The fantasy companies say their daily games are not gambling,
contending that the games involve more skill than luck. "Our product
is all about entertainment value," said Matt King, chief financial
officer of FanDuel, one of the largest daily fantasy sports

In 2006, Congress tried to crack down on illegal online sports
betting. Today, Internet wagering is thriving, and a new business
that resembles gambling, fantasy sports, is winning millions of
players and stoking controversy. The Times, with the PBS series

"Frontline," investigated illegal gambling in the Internet age.
* Tracking the Websites
Finding 'Who' and 'Where' Within the Cyber-Betting Universe
* Part 1
Cash Drops and Keystrokes: The Dark Reality of Sports Betting
and Daily Fantasy Games
* Part 2
The Offshore Game of Online Sports Betting
* Part 3
DraftKings Leaves Door Unlocked for Barred Fantasy Sports
* Part 4
To Those With Addiction, Daily Fantasy Sports Looks a Lot Like

Increasingly, that view is coming under attack, notably by New
York's attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman. Two weeks ago, Mr.
Schneiderman ordered FanDuel and its major competitor, DraftKings,
to stop accepting bets from New Yorkers because their games
constituted illegal gambling under state law. Both companies are
contesting that order in court.

For people like Mr. Adams, now in his mid-30s, this battle is about
more than just the letter of the law. In the unregulated world of
fantasy sports, it is also about the absence of safeguards to
protect problem gamblers and younger adults.

"Absolutely it is gambling," said Mr. Adams, who holds a master's
degree in rural sociology and considers himself a child of
privilege. "I wish I never would have gotten back into playing
fantasy sports, because for me, and I think for compulsive gamblers,
it leads us right back into a destructive state."

Fantasy games appeal to the demographic most likely to develop
gambling problems--young men, who researchers say are more prone
to taking risks. FanDuel readily admits that it targets millennials.

Fantasy contests have become so popular, and their advertisements so
ubiquitous, that gambling counselors say young children are now
playing with their fathers or, in some cases, by themselves. Neva
Pryor, who counsels gamblers in New Jersey, said that at a recent
conference, teachers were saying that on Monday mornings, "all the
students talk about is fantasy sports."

Most people can play daily fantasy or casino games without a
problem. "I know there are people that can do it normally," Mr.
Adams said, but he is not one of them. He also acknowledges that he
ultimately bears responsibility for his addiction.

Yet gambling counselors say they could more easily help people like
Mr. Adams if fantasy companies did not portray their games as
involving mostly skill. That alone is a risk for addiction, said
Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem

"The perception of skill has led many, many people down a very dark
path," he said.

Seeking Help

The difference between regulated and unregulated betting is evident
in the websites of casinos and fantasy companies.

Because online betting is legal in New Jersey, the Borgata casino
can offer Pick the Pros, where players must select winning football
teams for a shot at $200,000. Borgata's home page includes the note,
"Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER." That number connects to a
help hotline.

With problem gamblers, the Borgata said, "We believe it is our
responsibility to offer information and assistance."

In contrast, fantasy players may bet thousands of dollars a day, yet
neither FanDuel nor DraftKings mentions 1-800-GAMBLER on its
website. "We have consistently urged them to list our help line and
website," Mr. Whyte said. Mr. Adams said his first step toward
breaking his addiction had occurred when he saw the 1-800 number--
but it was not on a fantasy sports site.

In the wake of the New York attorney general's legal challenge,
DraftKings changed its website a week ago to warn that playing
fantasy sports could be a "stress-inducer." But the word "gambling"
does not appear, nor does the help line. Instead, the company refers
players to the National Center for Responsible Gaming, a research
group funded in part by the casino industry.

That group "is not a consumer protection advocate," Mr. Whyte said.
"They do good research and are a fine group, but they don't provide
direct services to problem gamblers like we do."

FanDuel said in a statement: "In any nascent, disruptive industry,
important questions are often raised about how the industry should
operate. Fantasy sports is no different, and we are reviewing our
policies and practices to ensure consumers have a positive
experience on our site." The company said it already had a process
by which players could opt out of games.

DraftKings issued a statement saying "we are continuously optimizing
our site to ensure our product is best in class and this includes
consumer protections."

Players who bet excessively are usually the last to recognize it,
underscoring the need, counselors say, for fantasy sites to list
warning signs, such as lying about time or money lost to betting.

Mr. Adams said he routinely lied to get money--for example,
telling his parents he needed a new roof. "I don't know how many
roofs I've put on my house," he said.

Problem gamblers also deceive themselves, believing their luck will

"What's interesting about daily fantasy, the way the marketing
works, is that you have new winners every day or every weekend,"
said Daniel Trolaro, who educates people on compulsive gambling. "So
for the problem gambler who thinks that he or she is simply one bet
away from winning back and solving their problems, they have ample
opportunity on a daily basis to do that."

Even gamblers who have decided to stop playing fantasy sports have
trouble breaking away.

Jennifer Alfert, a certified gambling counselor in Boca Raton, Fla.,
said a client who had quit gambling confided that, in September,
DraftKings had offered to let him play for free if he signed up a
friend--which he did, and he won $35.

"Rather than wait for a relapse," Ms. Alfert said, "I opted to
intervene." So in October, she said, she asked her client, whom she
identified only by his first name, Matt, to ask DraftKings to block
his access.

"I no longer wish to be able to bet," Matt told the company in an
email. "Additionally I would like the balance of my winnings in the
form of a check to a cause to help gamblers."

Instead of acting promptly upon his request, DraftKings emailed him
promotional materials that included statements like: "You Scored
Big! Your invite is inside: Claim your FREE Entry" and "We've
selected you for this! Your shot at winning $100K tonight."

Matt has yet to receive his money, Ms. Alfert said.

Different Approaches

On Thursday, Massachusetts joined Nevada and New York in seeking to
corral fantasy betting. But while Nevada and New York have banned
daily fantasy games, Massachusetts opted to regulate it by proposing

The attorney general, Maura Healey, said in a statement that the
regulations were intended to protect minors and to ensure fair
competition and truthful advertising.

Massachusetts will no longer allow anyone under age 21 to play daily
fantasy sports. Operators say they accept only players who are 18 or
older, but players as young as 14 are playing daily fantasy,
according to the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. The
Times interviewed a player who began betting at 15.

The council's director, Neva Pryor, said fantasy sites should
require players to prove their age with a driver's license. "There's
no age control, really," Ms. Pryor said. "You can simply open an
account in your name, check a box, and put in whatever age you want
to put in." Parents have opened accounts for children.
Massachusetts also wants to limit how daily fantasy companies entice
college students. DraftKings offers a fantasy college basketball
competition and a chance to win a share of $1 million as the
"Fantasy College Football World Champion."

Under the state's proposal, operators could no longer offer contests
involving colleges.

Daily fantasy companies have until Jan. 22^ to comment on the
proposal. Both DraftKings and FanDuel have said they prefer Ms.
Healey's approach to Mr. Schneiderman's.

FanDuel said Massachusetts's approach "makes a tremendous amount of
sense." DraftKings offered a more tempered response. "While we do
have some concerns with the draft regulations, we intend to work
closely with the Attorney General's office to ensure we are
operating in the best interest of our customers," the company said.

A Gambler's Way Back

One day last week, Mr. Adams rolled up his sleeve to show a tattoo
of a bar code and a date in May 2014. He wanted a reminder of the
day he began to reclaim his life--his last bet.

It was on a tennis match, not that he knew much about tennis, nor
about Japanese basketball. He bet on that, too. The bar code is a
reminder of how much money he has lost.

Breaking his addiction required 25 days in a rehabilitation center
and continuing meetings at Gamblers Anonymous. The final step of
recovery is to help other gamblers, and that is why he is telling
his story, of the people he hurt, of the lost days he can never

"In Gamblers Anonymous, we talk about prison, insanity or death," he
said. "The three aren't mutually exclusive. I think I was definitely
on my way to all three of those places."

In his early stages of recovery, he stopped watching sports, but he
has started watching again. He confesses to some anxiety when he
sees fantasy advertising, which he describes as having reached a
"grotesque" level.

"That's one thing that bothers me--when they say this year FanDuel
is paying out over $200 million," he said. "They leave out what
they're taking in. They don't say that there are going to be more
losers than winners."

He added: "That's dishonest."

Walt Bogdanich reported from Auburn, Ala., and Jacqueline Williams
from New York. Megan Robertson contributed reporting from Auburn.
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[tt] WaPo: Yahoo escalates the war on ad-blockers--by keeping people out of their own e-mail

Yahoo escalates the war on ad-blockers--by keeping people out of their own
By Hayley Tsukayama

Yahoo confirmed reports that it is preventing some Yahoo Mail users
from seeing their own e-mails until they turn off their ad-blocking

Several reports have indicated that some U.S. users have tried to
view their mail, only to receive a message from the site asking them
to turn off their ad-blocking software first. In a statement to The
Washington Post, a spokeswoman said, "At Yahoo, we are continually
developing and testing new product experiences. This is a test we're
running for a small number of Yahoo Mail users."

The move could be seen as a reaction to the growing use of ad
blockers, which people are installing on their devices to get away
from annoying, sometimes invasive, often inconvenient
advertisements. That's spelled some trouble for Internet companies
such as Yahoo and Google, as well as media companies, all of which
depend on advertising revenue to fund their businesses. The debate
around ad-blocking has kicked into high gear in recent months,
particularly after Apple started offering support for ad-blocking in
its mobile Safari browser for the iPhone and other iOS devices.

The move has served as a wake-up call for some in the advertising
industry. The Interactive Advertising Bureau said in an October blog
post that it would spearhead an effort to make ads that load more
quickly, are more secure and are more respectful of users' privacy

Advertisers admit it: 'We messed up' the Web

Yet while some firms--notably, The Washington Post--have put up
messages asking users to turn off their ad-blocking software in
exchange for access to content, Yahoo may stand alone in actively
blocking users from reaching their own correspondence.

The move may bring one thing into sharp focus: When it comes to free
services, companies have to balance the needs of their users with
the needs of the advertisers who pay the bills. And while the Yahoo
test is still only a test, the company certainly seems willing to
explore options at all points on that spectrum.

Yahoo is well within its rights to do so, said Ansel Halliburton an
attorney at Kronenberger Rosenfeld who specializes in Internet law.
After all, it's not as if the company is violating any part of its
legal agreement with consumers by making this request; in fact, in
some cases, consumers may be in breach of contract for using

"A lot of times when I write terms of service now, I put that in,"
Halliburton said. "Practically speaking, no one is going to sue 5
million people for using an ad blocker, but it gives them some
leverage to block the blockers."

Yahoo in particular doesn't appear to have language specifically
prohibiting users from using ad blockers in its terms of service,
though agreeing to use its services does mean that users must agree
to the statement "Yahoo may include advertisements and that these
advertisements are necessary for Yahoo to provide the Yahoo

While users can always choose to vote with their feet if they don't
like what Yahoo or others may do in the future, that hardly means
this debate will end any time soon. Halliburton said that he expects
the escalation in the battle against ad-blockers will continue. He
noted that some companies in Germany have already tried--and
failed--to challenge the legality of blockers by filing suit
against the parent company of AdBlock Plus. Companies could say that
blocking ads is a violation of copyright, as broadcasters tried to
do when television commercial-skipping technologies first popped up,
he said.

That, of course, does not change how Yahoo's experiment may affect
its public reputation. People have been vocal about their
displeasure with the test, which comes at a time when Yahoo faces
serious questions from analysts about its ability to draw and retain

"PR-wise, this seems like a harsh thing to do," Halliburton said.
"But running e-mail infrastructure at that volume takes a lot of

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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[tt] TLS 5876 (Al Humboldt): Robert Mayhew: Man of the Cosmos

TLS 5876: Robert Mayhew: Man of the Cosmos

Robert Mayhew is Professor of Historical Geography and Intellectual
History at the University of Bristol. He is writing a history of the ideas
of Thomas Robert Malthus and Malthusianism.

Andrea Wulf
The adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the lost hero of science
473pp. John Murray. £25. 978 1 84854 898 5

Published: 11 November 2015

Contrary to Andrea Wulf's subtitle, Alexander von Humboldt is hardly a
"lost hero". In fact, there is a veritable Humboldt industry in
English-language scholarship, let alone in the German-speaking world, with
biographies of Humboldt and even an analysis of those biographies as a
subject of historical inquiry, in Nicolaas Rupke's engaging work of
"metabiography". Humboldt's writings hardly count as "lost" either. On the
contrary, the attention paid to the concept of a distinctively
"Humboldtian" form of science since the 1980s has resulted in the
burgeoning availability of Humboldt's texts in reliable translations,
notably through the University of Chicago Press's Alexander von Humboldt
in English project. From an academic perspective, Humboldt has never been
as "found" as he is now. And yet Wulf surely has a point that this
scholarly attention to Humboldt has not crossed over to a wider audience
in the way it has for, say, Charles Darwin, and this despite Humboldt
having a far more gripping life story than afforded by Darwin's ailments
in the Kentish countryside.

Humboldt's story is indeed a quite remarkable one, a real-life
Bildungsroman of a nervous and academically unconfident child, who came to
be feted across three continents, to converse on terms of equality with
presidents such as Jefferson and poets such as Goethe. This is the
Humboldt who, as Wulf notes, came to have more things named after him
(mountains, rivers, mammals, birds, ocean currents, and so on) than anyone
else. It is also the Humboldt whose services were sought by the monarchs
and scientific societies of Europe to the extent that he only had time to
read and write in the middle of the night. Humboldt's last, uncompleted
(and probably uncompletable) masterpiece, Cosmos, whose aim was to bring
the entire physical and human realm within its purview, was a fit emblem
for the role its author had come to occupy in the intellectual life of the
early nineteenth century.

Wulf's narrative relates Humboldt's life and ideas at a good pace and with
a strong eye for the details which will attract the reader's attention (I
was struck, for example, by the historical serendipity which has Humboldt
meet Lenin's grandfather during his Russian expedition). The two keynotes
of the account frame Humboldt in terms of his wanderlust and his
prescience. Humboldt only undertook major expeditions twice. The first was
the celebrated journey to the Americas as a young man at the turn of the
nineteenth century, which made his name and which drove the scientific and
popular books he wrote for the rest of his life. The other was a trip to
the interior of Russia as he turned sixty. And yet Wulf shows that
Humboldt was constantly projecting other expeditions and was never at rest
in any location. He was also forever travelling vicariously through his
patronage of others, whose findings from around the globe he devoured. On
Wulf's account, Humboldt was restless to the point of the pathological,
but that was the fuel for and the product of his prodigious intellect, an
intellect undimmed until his death at the age of eighty-nine.

The prescience Wulf detects in Humboldt is perhaps more debatable, and
certainly has a more contemporary resonance. Wulf frames Humboldt as the
pioneer of an interconnected, ecological mode of thinking about nature and
society which would only come into fashion in the twentieth century. He is
also credited as the first analyst of human-induced climate change in his
meditations on Lake Valencia in 1800 during his South American travels.
Wulf reiterates these claims throughout The Invention of Nature: thus, the
Essay on the Geography of Plants was "the world's first ecological book";
by his work on how humans can change the climate Humboldt "unwittingly
became the father of the environmental movement", "no one had looked at
the relationship between man and nature like this before", and so on. But
Humboldt's concern with human impacts on the environment was not
unprecedented. In fact, it was part of a long-standing concern with such
matters, as environmental historians from at least the era of Clarence
Glacken in the 1950s have documented. Further, holistic and vitalist
approaches to nature were hardly as rare as stereotypes of the
Enlightenment as a rationalist age suggest.

The same sense of exaggeration applies to the final sections of Wulf's
book, which trace Humboldt's impact on a genealogy of environmental
thinkers from Charles Lyell and Darwin to Ernst Haeckel and John Muir.
Wulf shows convincingly that the great environmental thinkers from the
three or four decades either side of Humboldt's death in 1859 all ascribed
a formative role in their development to the encounter with his ideas, but
it is a recapitulation of the genetic fallacy to then ascribe their ideas
to Humboldt's influence. Humboldt may have been a revered and genuine
inspiration, but genealogy is not paternity: the flow of ideas about
ecology and the environment cannot be ascribed to him as such. Here, Wulf
overplays her hand, which is a shame as Humboldt's life story is
fascinating enough in its own terms not to need the crutch of contemporary
relevance and resonance in order to stand up and claim our attention,
something her engaging account otherwise so amply demonstrates.