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Which of the 50 States Is the Weirdest? Humorist Dave Barry Knows
There's a place Americans feel they can do anything, and it's not Las Vegas.
Dave Barry has been a professional humorist ever since he discovered that professional humor was a lot easier than working. His is the co-author of For This We Left Egypt, and author of Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland.
For many years he wrote a newspaper column that appeared in more than 500 newspapers and generated thousands of letters from readers who thought he should be fired. Despite this, Barry won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, although he misplaced it for several years, which is why his wife now keeps it in a secure location that he does not know about. One of Barry's columns was largely responsible for the movement to observe International Talk Like a Pirate Day every year on September 19. This is probably his most enduring achievement.
Barry has written more than 30 books, including the novels Big Trouble, Lunatics, Tricky Business and, most recently, Insane City. He has also written a number of books with titles like I'll Mature When I'm Dead, which are technically classified as nonfiction, although they contain numerous lies. Two of Barry's books were the basis for the CBS sitcom Dave's World, which can probably still be seen on cable TV in certain underdeveloped nations.
Barry lives in Miami with his family and a dog that is determined to urinate on every square inch of North America. You can follow him at @rayadverb on Twitter and learn more about his work at davebarry.com.
Dave Barry: There are a lot of factors that make Florida weird. It is not like any other state that I know of, in the sense that there is no Florida. I mean, there is Miami where I live, which is Latin America. I mean, it is! You spend any time in Miami, you will discover that not only is it Latin America, but it's more and more Latin America every day.
If you go south into the Keys, it's in the '60s. If you go west—Naples—it's Ohio. If you go north to Boca, it's Long Island. If you go to Orlando it's like Russian limousine drivers driving tourists from everywhere in the world around. And if you go much north of that it becomes Georgia and Alabama.
So it is really not one state, it has no coherence at all, and I think less so as the time goes by. It's a vacation spot, so you have people coming down there to have fun, people not feeling necessarily in a serious mood. It's a very transient state, so you have a lot of people, again, who don't feel rooted there, but are just there because it's convenient or the weather is nice or whatever.
And it's a pretty corrupt state (I mean our government). We had a lot of corruption in Florida. And it's convenient to all kinds of borders, so it's very easy to get there from the Caribbean, from Latin America, whatever; so if you wanted to smuggle something, Florida is a great place to start.
So the result of this is: it's just this kind of very loose, very non-structured, very non-traditional state where anything feels like it could happen. It's kind of like: if you made Las Vegas much bigger and with less controls not to the efficiency of the casinos and the Las Vegas Police Department; just kind of a big area where people feel they can do things. So people come from everywhere to party, to do whatever, to commit criminal acts. And the weather is warm, so you can always be outside and there's always a party going on somewhere. It's just conducive to weird things happening.
My argument has been for a long time that it's not so much Floridians are weird (and I consider myself to be one when I've been there 30 years), it's people who come to Florida: we are like the Ellis Island for weird, stupid people—they come to Florida to commit to stupid acts.
One example I like to use that got international publicity: A woman was arrested driving south on the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West, she had an accident because she was shaving her bikini region while driving. She actually had outsourced the steering to her passenger. She was in a hurry to see her boyfriend in Key West. This was all according to the police report. So she decided rather than to pull over to the side of the road to shave her bikini region, she'd keep going and outsource the steering to her passenger, who was (as it happened, and this is why it's a Florida story) her ex-husband.
So they're driving south 40 miles an hour; she's shaving but not looking at the road just operating the accelerator; he’s steering. What could possibly go wrong?
Anyway, the car in front of them slows down; they slam into it; there's an accident. International news, all Florida stories are. Can you believe it? This woman who was shaving her bikini area while driving? The woman was from Indiana. That's the key. She was shaving her Hoosier, which is I think were that term comes from. Florida gets the blame for that, but it's actually somebody who came to Florida.
And that's so often the case if somebody decides he want to pleasure himself into a stuff animal in Walmart, that person—wherever he is—he's going to go to Florida to commit that act, which is why we have so many people doing just so many weird things naked with reptiles. We have a lot of reptiles also.
There's a place Americans feel they can do anything, and it's not Las Vegas. Car crashes, sex acts, Walmart, stuffed animals: where else but Florida could these four things be part of the same narrative? Florida is weird alright, but if you ask humorist Dave Barry, it’s not so much about the place but the kind of strangelings it attracts. Located at an opportune intersection of borders and water, it is a hotbed for smuggling and other criminal enterprises, and with that comes all kinds of characters and a sense that anything — anything — goes. Having lived there for 30 years, Barry considers himself truly Floridian. This is his love letter to all the strange things that go down there. Dave Barry is the co-author of For This We Left Egypt?.
If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.
- Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
- Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
- One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
- The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
- The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Duke researchers have developed the first gel-based synthetic cartilage with the strength of the real thing. A quarter-sized disc of the material can withstand the weight of a 100-pound kettlebell without tearing or losing its shape.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.
- 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
- Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
- Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.
The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.
In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.
That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.
70 data points and machine learning
Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash
Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:
"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."
The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.
Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."
Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.
Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.
On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.
Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash
Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."
"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.
The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.