N Stuff

Should we kill all mosquitoes?

"No other bite kills more humans, or makes more of us sick." Nor is there any animal more annoying. 

And to make matters worse, there seems to be no real purpose to these ridiculous pests. THE WORLD COULD EASILY SURVIVE WITHOUT THEM!!!

Andrea Crisanti, "a tousled, sad-eyed man with a gentle smile, was trained as a physician in Rome" then studied molecular biology in Heidelberg where "he developed his lifelong interest in malaria."  In recent years, he and his colleagues have discovered a way to "spread an infertility mutation to 75 percent of a mosquito population" (via).

Which sounds great! 

But . . .

For thousands of years, the relentlessly expanding population of Homo sapiens has driven other species to extinction by eating them, shooting them, destroying their habitat or accidentally introducing more successful competitors to their environment. But never have scientists done so deliberately, under the auspices of public health. The possibility raises three difficult questions: Would it work? Is it ethical? Could it have unforeseen consequences? (via).

The answers are a bit more complex than what one might expect. Yes, breeding sterile mosquitos could wipe out a large percentage of the overall population and eradicating them completely in smaller communities, but it's probably almost impossible to think they could be wiped out completely. But it's the bigger question, the Jurassic Park question of just because we can rid the world of these pesky insects, does that mean we should?

The larger concern, arguably, is over the use of CRISPR itself, and the awesome power it unleashes over the environment. “We can remake the biosphere to be what we want, from woolly mammoths to nonbiting mosquitoes,” Greely muses. “How should we feel about that? Do we want to live in nature, or in Disneyland?” 

“We will have engineered the ecosystems of people elsewhere in the world without their knowledge or consent. We go from the default assumption that the things we engineer will not spread, to assuming they will . . . as soon as you’re thinking of a gene drive technology, you have to assume whatever you’re making will spread once it gets outside the lab. Human error will win out, if not deliberate human action" (via).

After swatting and scratching and waving off that annoying buzz in my ears all summer long, getting rid of mosquitos was a no-brainer. Especially after watching this:

But then, "as soon as you’re thinking of a gene drive technology, you have to assume whatever you’re making will spread once it gets outside the lab." 

Nature is beautiful often because it is imperfect. And if Disneyland were to spill out and over the rest of the country, the world, and consume the mountains and rivers, making them "perfect", is that really a world we want to live in? 

I don't think so. But then, I'm brought back, again and again, to this. And suddenly, once again, I'm torn. Because it isn't about annoyances anymore, but lives. Hundreds of thousands of them. 

Suddenly the answer seems pretty clear.

But is it? 

Ridding the world of mosquitoes is an act of playing God, but without the ability to see the future of consequence. We get to decide what has the right to live and what doesn't. We bypass natural selection and head straight for extinction. 

What then? And will it be worth it?


Should we kill all mosquitoes? 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Nature

This guy launched a GoPro into "near space"!


A lot of people asked me why I was doing this. Mostly, I had free time and needed a project/hobby to keep me engaged and secondly, space is neat.

Yes, it is neat. And huge! And somewhat terrifying. 

Here are a few other projects that help us understand and want to discover more about space.




"Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts-Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders-held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Said Lovell, 'The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.' They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis" (via).


To Scale : The Solar System

A film by Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh

"On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe" (via).


Near Space : A balloon with a GoPro attached

Two posts made that can answer many questions:

Post on the launch: https://imgur.com/gallery/UXezC

Post of How to do your own Balloon Launch: https://imgur.com/gallery/8a40L

If you are interested in doing your own balloon project check out this website. You can also read more about the Near Space project here.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Are we alone?  :  Why the Solar Eclipse Will Blow Your Mind  :  We've sent some pretty cool shtuff into space

Why We Should Live Like Conductors

The role of a conductor is to organize the music and keep everything calm."


You should make the audience want to dance although you shouldn't be a circus act. I think people should focus on the music, and not the conductor.

When asked, "What bothers you in an announcer that you feel isn't measuring up?" Buck responded with,

"Over talking, doing too much, trying to prove to the audience that they did their reading, trying to make the call about themselves . . . I just want to state what happened. I want to do it an exciting way. I haven't always accomplished that, by the way. And I want to get out of the viewer's head. It's not about me. Nobody's tuning in - let's check the TV Guide listings and see what game Joe Buck is calling. Nobody cares. They want to see the Cubs. They want to see the Packers. They want to see the Cowboys. They don't care who's calling the game . . . if I get hit by a bus going into a game, they're still going to play. And the guys that bother me, without naming names, are the guys who sound like if they got hit by that bus, the game would be canceled" (via)

And when it comes to moments of great climactic celebration, moments where announces can make a name for themselves, moments like the Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years, Joe Buck didn't try to keep everyone calm or insert himself into the moment. Instead, he kept quiet. "I could choose to make that call all about me," he says, "screaming and yelling and, you know, 'groundball to Kris Bryant, going to be a tough play, out at first. And for the first time in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs have finally won it all. They gather on the mound. Players jumping over'", but he didn't. He didn't say any of that stuff, because it wasn't about him. It was about something bigger. 

I wonder how many other professions would do well to adapt a similar philosophy. How many companies, schools, communities, and relationships have crumbled because the man or woman in charge is trying to make it about themselves, forgetting that if they were gone, the game would still go on.

People like: 

- Teachers/Principals
- Parents
- CEO's
- Pastors
- Presidents/world leaders

How many of them, of us, make the moments of life - both big and small - about us, and not the bigger picture? And in so doing, ruin everything?

Really, for me, it comes down to humilitas and the belief that we should be using (or withholding) our gifts and talents for the benefit of others, not just ourselves. Just like a conductor. 

Keep everything calm, inspire dance, help people focus on the music. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Living Music  :  Joe Buck  : Do Orchestras Really Need Conductors?

Monthly Newsletter : July

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Hello all!

Welcome to Stories Matter, a place where humanity is shared and curiosity pursued. Which sometimes means heading to the darker places of life. Like hate.

For you newcomers, first off, welcome! But also, this is a bit more longwinded than normal. Sorry about that:)

For the past two weeks or so my family and I have been on the road, visiting China friends in Kansas City, Missouri, hiking with old friends in Turkey Run, Indiana, surprise visiting Judah's best friend from China in someplace-forgettable, Ohio, and then very much relaxing with my sister and family on a lake in eastern Pennsylvania. So far, we've had a blast (even though I'm currently sitting in an old and crappy waiting room while our van is getting looked at), but we've also had a lot of great conversations. Some easy, others not. All of them purposeful.

I'm sure you are all familiar with reuniting with friends and family. The first moments are a bit awkward, then comes the typical, "So what's new?" conversations, which will probably lead into some sort of remembering old times which are always great, and then there's the discussing of possible future endeavors or summer plans. But if we're lucky (either because we have enough time or because the present company is intentional) we get to discuss the real deep stuff, the personal stuff, the get-beyond-the-surfacy-bullshit- stuff. You know, the human being stuff.

Fortunately, over these past few weeks, we've been able to have some of those conversations, because we're fortunate to have those kinds of friends. But after each visit, as we drive to the next location, I've been thinking, "What is it exactly that forms friendships? Relationships? Community?"

What allows certain family members, friends, communities to flourish while others flounder? Is it diversity? Education? Religion? What? 

Then I recalled a discussion I've had (on more than one occasion) with my son about his friends and how I judge whether they are good for him. At first, my criteria was simple: "are they nice to your sisters? Because if they pick on them, then they aren't the type of kids I want you hanging out with." He wasn't thrilled with my assessment, and over time, neither was I. Because it was too simple. Too incomplete. So we added a bit more.

Good Friends Will:

1. Hurt when you hurt
2. Celebrate your success
3. Call you on your crap
4. Listen when you call them on theirs
5. Be nice to your siblings

While driving across country or walking unfamiliar streets in the early mornings (because babies don't sleep well in unfamiliar rooms) these ideas and questions on my mind and a variety of podcasts in my ears. And for whatever reason, a sort of theme has presented itself: Hatred.

At first this topic seemed a bit to heavy or dark to have as a theme, but the more I listened and read and watched snippets of news, the more appropriate it seems to discuss because our world, our country, our communities, even our families seem to be littered with this terrible disease. So why not talk about it?

Origins of Hate:

Today, 100 years ago, Nelson Mandela was born. And for the past 100 years, there may not have been a person on this planet who has had to endure and overcame hate more than this man. He says this about the origins of hate: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” And I don't think he is wrong.

Think about this for a minute. In elementary school, who are our biggest rivals? Other local elementary schools, right? Then, as we all blend into middle school together and find common interests, we begin to have animosity towards other little further yet still local middle schoolers. The same for high school and college. Yet, whenever we attend a professional game of some sort, who do we hate? Teams from other cities, right? But then, during the olympics, those people from rival cities suddenly become those we lock arms with as we our national team competes against foreign countries, whom we grow to dislike, loath, and hate. From an early age, we are taught to dislike, distrust, even hate those who are different.

No wonder it continues on in our churches, families, politics, and communities. 

So then, what do we do about it?

The other day, while walking in the blistering midday heat of Warrington, PA, I listened to perhaps one of the most challenging yet enjoyable podcasts of the past few months, and found possible answers.

Why we hate, and what we can do about it:

We develop hate as a mechanism to not blame ourselves for failures and voids we are unable to fill," Christian Picciolini says in an interview with Guy Raz, "If I made people feel worse than I did, than that made me feel better about myself and that might have been the only way that I could actually feel good about myself. Many, many  people were doing that, if not all of t(the white supremacists) were projecting their own pain, their own trauma, their own unresolved issues onto other people so they didn't have to feel it themselves. But I also think it was about ignorance, isolation, and fear (Why We Hate, by TED Radio Hour).

What I loved most about this TED Talk though was not just the various explanations of why we hate and the discussions of whether or not it is innate or learned, but that it gave very tangible solutions to hate. They aren't easy, but they're concrete. And I like that.

While listening to this podcast (and I mean it, check it out . . . it's fantastic), I was reminded of the time I spent in Hawaii, roaming the streets, and forcing myself to talk to anyone who caused even the slightest bit of fear in me. The first guy I talked to was Trey, a large African-American man with tattoos on his arms, neck, and cheeks. It took me the better part of a block to approach him, and when I did, my voice shook. I was terrified. But so was he, which of course I found preposterous because why should he be scared of me? It wasn't until later on in the evening, when I was waiting for a bus, that he and I ended up sitting together for almost two hours and I learned why he was scared of white people (because they can't be trusted), why he was living in Hawaii (used to be married to a woman in the army), why he took a teaching job in Alaska (because people told him he couldn't), and why I was so scared of him. Ignorance.

Learning love and compassion:

The episode also reminded me of many other instances where we - the broken human race - have allowed ignorance and fear to lead to hate, but also - and more importantly - how, through compassion, conversation, and forgiveness, we've been able to overcome it. Here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order):

The Black Panther Party: For me, the Black Panther Party meant leather car coats, black turtlenecks and black berets. It meant violence and guns. It inspired fear. But like the many black men and women who joined the Black Panther Party with ideas of power and revenge, I was fully disillusioned. Because for many years my understanding of the Black Panther Party, their history and their purpose, was shaped by media and movies. And I believed that what I saw and knew was fully true.  Until this, a revised history of the Black Panther Party.

Muslims: In order for community and unity to be found, for ignorance to be beaten, somebody has to be strong. Kind. And bigger than the situation and themselves.  They must, "remain delightful" because, "you'll attract more bees with honey." Which also means, sometimes, those holding the honey will have to endure the stings of the ignorant and cruel. The Muslims are coming is one such example because, contrary to what is often portrayed, instead of hate and guns and violence, many Musslims are carrying honey.

Refugees and my Neighbors: What if we treated our neighbors like refugees? What if we treated refugees like our neighbors? Not that long ago, a young girl from Judah's class missed the bus because her sister overslept. She couldn’t go home because nobody was there and she couldn’t make it to school because the roads were barely plowed and most of the sidewalks hadn’t been shoveled. Plus, she was cold. She wasn’t wearing socks or a hat or even a jacket, and at eight o’clock in the morning, it was still a few degrees below zero. So she knocked on our door, and we treated her like a refugee

WWII Soldiers: An Oregon couple is providing closure to the descendants of Japanese soldiers killed in World War II by repatriating the "good luck" flags they carried into battle, which were acquired by American GIs. Lee Cowan talks to veterans and their families about a respectful and emotional return - and of a bond born of war and strengthened in peace.

I still don't have a concrete outline of how to create strong and healthy relationships and communities, but for now here are a few I'm working on:

Healthy Communities Will:

  1. Embrace compassion over judgement 
  2. Pursue conversation rather than gossip

  3. Be patient and provide second, third, fourth, and many other chances

  4. Seek first to understand, not to be understood

  5. Treat each other like good friends (from the list above)

In Conclusion:

Thank you all for subscribing and reading! Please, if you have any suggestions, comments, or recommendations, send them my way!!! In the meantime, here are a few things I'm currently wresting with:

What I’m reading: The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World,
by Charles C. Mann. Because by the year 2050 there will be 10 billion people on this earth, and our world simply cannot handle it. 

Quotes I'm considering: "Harmony : everything is uniquely itself and by being uniquely itself, part of a greater community" from "What Wisdom Can We Gain From Nature." This one too is extremely impactful, in just 9 short minutes!!!  Check it out. 

Enjoy the week! And be curious. 

2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year


National Geographic recently announced the winners of the Travel Photographer of the Year contest for 2018. You can see the winners here and the people’s choice awards here.

I don't know why, but that alligator one really intrigues me. Maybe it's because I just spent the last ten days in a cabin on a lake and watched my kids play, almost daily, some form of king of the mountain (on rafts). I bet that's what those gators are doing too. And if I were the current king, I'd be leery of the big momma coming to claim her throne . . . sheesh.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Photography  :  best of . . .

Co Exist, by Michael Marczewski

I just friggen love this video, especially the mirror scene at the 41 second mark, because they're something about artists being inspired by other artists that encourages the hell out of me. 

No competition. No jealousy or envy. No stomping on others in order to get ahead, just simple collaboration, inspiration, and creation.

I love that.

"Stock footage clips are placed within computer generated worlds in this series of animations. The two coexisting elements playfully interact. Oh... and there is also a cave full of boobs.

This compilation film features some of my favourite animations from my collaborative Instagram series. See more here: instagram.com/michaelmarczewski" (via). 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Art  :  Music

View of Life in a One-Room Home


"For eighteen years, {Masaki Yamamoto's} family of seven coexisted in a one-room apartment in Kobe. His father drove trucks, and his mother worked as a cashier in a supermarket. They and their five children all slept in the same space, a room the size of six tatami mats, limbs overlapping amid a pile of ever-multiplying junk. When you looked up, you couldn’t avoid meeting the eyes of someone else, Yamamoto, the second-oldest of his siblings, said, adding, 'The one place you could be alone was the bathtub.' 'Guts,' his new photography book, is a celebration of his family’s everyday existence in these close quarters (via).


"The power of Yamamoto’s photos lies in this subversion of the viewer’s expectations. Yamamoto is clear-sighted and un-nostalgic about his family’s precarious economic circumstances. When he was eight years old, the family was evicted from their previous apartment in Kobe. They all lived out of a car for a month, and Yamamoto and his siblings spent time in a children’s home before being reunited with their parents. In one photo, Yamamoto shows his mother playing rock, paper, scissors with her husband, to decide whether their money should go to his pachinko games. The camera focusses on the bills clenched tightly in her fist" (via).

 Photographs by Masaki Yamamoto

Photographs by Masaki Yamamoto

Kinda puts a lot of my life - my needs, wants, expectations, disappointments and fears - into perspective. 


You can read and see more here, at The New Yorker.


For more on . . .

Photography  :  -N- Stuff  :  Ebrahim Noroozi: Iranian Coal Miners  :  Hong Kong in the 1950s  :  Standing, for a moment, with refugees  :  jtinseoul : Loud yet Clear

Kidding, starring Jim Carrey

In his first series regular role in over two decades, Jim Carrey stars as Jeff, aka Mr. Pickles, an icon of children’s television, a beacon of kindness and wisdom to America’s impressionable young minds, who also anchors a multimillion-dollar branding empire. But when Jeff’s family begins to implode, he finds no fairy tale or fable or puppet will guide him through the crisis, which advances faster than his means to cope. The result: a kind man in a cruel world faces a slow leak of sanity as hilarious as it is heartbreaking (via).

 Kidding reunites Jim Carrey with Michel Gondry who also directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - one of my longtime favorites - and is set to premiere on September 9, 2018 on Showtime.

It is also airing, probably somewhat purposefully, a few months after the movie, WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? is released. And I can't wait to watch them both.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Movies :  Jim Carrey


Cleveland's Balloonfest Disaster of '86

"Balloonfest in 1986 was a fundraiser for United Way and a chance to put Cleveland on the map, busting a record for simultaneous release of balloons set the previous year by Anaheim, Calif., on the 30th anniversary of Disneyland" (via). Instead, it turned into a disaster for the city of Cleveland, otherwise known as "The Mistake on the Lake."

"In the hours and days and weeks that followed,"  John Kroll writes, "the United Way executives who had engineered the feat were reminded of the basic law of gravity: What goes up must come down."

Down, in this case, on Burke Lakefront Airport, shutting down a runway there. Down on a pasture in Medina County, spooking a horse, whose owner would sue and later settle with the charity. Down on Lake Erie, blanketing the water just as a Coast Guard helicopter arrived to search for two missing boaters -- who would later be found, drowned; the wife of one of them also sued, and also settled. Down weeks later on the shores of the lake -- the northern shores, where Ontario residents found their beaches littered with thousands of deflated balloons (via).

I will say, that the initial picture, of the balloons wrapping around the dull city skyline, is pretty fantastic. It's also fairly indicative of humanity: the neglect of longterm ramifications for the pursuit of instant recognition and possible redemption.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Short Films  :  Inspiring Art

Revisionist History : Season 3

Malcolm Gladwell's fantastic podcast is back for season 3!  The first episode, Divide and Conquer: The Complete, Unabridged History of the World's Most Dangerous Semicolon

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

You can also listen to a special live taping of Malcolm and WorkLife’s Adam Grant (who wrote one of my favorite books of 2017) discussing "how to avoid doing highly undesirable tasks, what makes an idea interesting, and why Malcolm thinks we shouldn't root for the underdog." It's a great listen. I laughed aloud, thought a ton, and got supper geeked about this coming season.  

Gladwell is a genius. 

Happy listening!!!


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Podcasts  :  Malcolm Gladwell

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Anyone signing up this month will get a handwritten "Thank You!" card.