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Our Belligerent Political Process


Brent Simmons writes about the Democratic primaries and keeping our eyes on the real prize:

Odds are that your favorite is not going to be the nominee. And that nominee, whoever it is, needs to not have been already labeled a garbage candidate by you and by everyone whose favorite he or she isn’t.

Here’s the thing: we’re fighting to stop the spread of right-wing extremism. It will get so much worse if we reelect the president. It has to be stopped now. No other issue matters, because nothing else can be done without doing this.

I feel like there’s a deep sickness in our culture in how people express solidarity with the side they’ve chosen. It’s most visible in sports and politics and is related to nationalism versus patriotism. Many people tend to root for their preferred team or candidate in a nationalistic way (destructive, antagonistic) rather than a patriotic way (productive, positive) — more “Bernie rules, all the other candidates can suck it” versus “Bernie is my candidate because he supports several issues I care about”. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for strident activism or for criticism addressing real problems with candidates or entire political parties (gestures broadly), but as Simmons notes, this belligerent attitude is counterproductive, no matter how good it might feel personally.

And this bit is sadly true and I have not heard anyone else really talking about it:

I don’t care about any of the wonderful liberal and progressive policies our candidates propose — because they’re not going to get through.

(Well, I do care about them, deeply, but the point stands.)

It’s not that it would take 60 Democratic senators — it would take more like 65 or even more, and that’s not going to happen. We can elect the most wonderful progressive person ever and they’ll just beat their head against the wall.

There’s no magic coming. There’s no amount of will-of-the-people that will move Republican senators. All of the policy we talk about is just fantasy.

Tags: 2020 election   Brent Simmons   politics   USA
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146 days ago
Charlottesville, Virginia
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Clint Dempsey announces retirement from professional soccer

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One of the most prolific U.S. Men’s National Team players of his generation announced his retirement on Wednesday.

Clint Dempsey, who played for the New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, and most recently the Seattle Sounders, called time on his career effective immediately.

“After a lot of thought, my family and I have decided that this is the right time for me to step away from the game,” said Dempsey in a statement on the Sounders website. “I’d like to thank all of the teammates, coaches and support staff that I’ve worked with throughout my career. It has always been my dream to make it as a pro. I’m grateful to have been on this ride.

“I would like to thank all of the fans who have supported me throughout my career with the New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham, Seattle Sounders, and the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Dempsey said. “Y’all have always made me feel at home, and it is something that I will always remember.”

In his club career, Dempsey won the 2016 MLS Cup with the Sounders, as well as the 2014 U.S. Open Cup. He finishes his Sounders career with 47 regular season MLS goals, tied with Fredy Montero for the most in club history.

Dempsey was a runner-up with Fulham in the UEFA Europa League in 2010 and in the 2005 and 2006 MLS Cups with the New England Revolution.

On the international stage, the 35-year-old made 141 appearances for the USMNT, scoring 57 goals, which is tied with Landon Donovan for the most in American history.


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679 days ago
Charlottesville, Virginia
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Cardiologist’s surgical device backed by UVa investment

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A cardiologist at the University of Virginia Health System hopes a device he invented could improve outcomes for heart surgery patients — and make it easier to do his job.

Dr. Scott Lim, an associate professor of pediatrics and medicine, co-founded 510 Kardiac Devices with Jaime Sarabia, an entrepreneur and engineer based in Atlanta. The early-stage company is developing a device to aid cardiologists in operations on the left side of the heart.

The left side of the heart receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it out through the aorta, the body’s main artery. To minimize risk of arterial bleeding, cardiologists typically access the heart’s left side by running a catheter through veins into the right side of the heart and puncturing the septum, a membrane that separates the left and right atria. 

Sarabia said that only about 10 percent of interventional cardiologists in the United States are proficient at transseptal punctures. 

“It is a dangerous and difficult step, and the technology behind it hasn’t evolved in 60 years,” Sarabia said. “We could make it safer, better and more efficient.”

The Lim Transseptal System is designed to give surgeons more precise control of the catheter when targeting specific locations within the heart after a transseptal puncture. It also promotes maximum visibility in an echocardiogram.

“We are reshaping catheters so they can take curves and cross from one side of the heart to the other,” Lim said. 

“Rather than accepting what anatomy gives to you, you can drive the catheter to specific locations,” Sarabia said. “It gives surgeons a much better starting point.”

Early in his career, Sarabia was part of a small team of engineers at Evalve that designed the MitraClip heart implant. Evalve was acquired by Abbott for $410 million in 2009. 

Sarabia met Lim through his work as a market development manager for Abbott.

“Dr. Lim was one of the most influential interventional cardiologists in the launch of [mitral valve therapy],” Sarabia said. “He has used this technology with high clinical success, and has trained dozens of physicians around the world.”

510 Kardiac gets its name from the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) clearance. The 510(k) streamlines the regulatory process by allowing a manufacturer to demonstrate that its device is substantially equivalent to another device already on the market that did not require premarket approval.

Sarabia said it took more than a decade to bring the MitraClip to surgeons and patients He said he is excited by 510 Kardiac’s focus on smaller innovations that could still have substantial impact.

“We want to be smart about technologies we choose to pursue, and develop technologies that we can bring to market more quickly,” he said. 

510 Kardiac has manufactured several prototypes of the Lim Transseptal System, and has tested them on animals and human cadavers. Lim said the device is on track for FDA approval by the end of 2018.

510 Kardiac Devices recently received the UVa Licensing & Ventures Group Seed Fund’s fourth investment, joining TypeZero Technologies, TearSolutions and Mission Secure. Individual investment amounts were not disclosed.

UVa created the $10 million seed fund in 2016 with funding from the university and its Health System to support new ventures emerging from the university’s intellectual property portfolio. 

“We are getting more and more applications from across Grounds and the hospital,” said Bob Creeden, managing director of the seed fund.

Creeden said 510 Kardiac’s co-founders inspire confidence in investors with their impressive professional experience and ability to work together as a team.

Nextern Medical, a Minnesota-based medical design and manufacturing firm, joined the Licensing & Ventures Group in 510 Kardiac’s latest round of investment.

“Nextern Medical has 25 years of experience with developing devices for the cardiac space, so their investment is real validation for 510 Kardiac,” Creeden said. 

“Any new technology, even if it’s fascinating and great, takes money to bring it to market,” Lim said. “But the Licensing & Ventures Group has also been quite generous with their time and their advice. It’s a tremendous partnership for us.”


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751 days ago
Charlottesville, Virginia
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Battling overparenting; reducing student stress

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Former Stanford dean offers guidance during talk at St. Anne’s

What happens to children when parents “overparent?” 

That was the subject of a talk by Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success,” at St. Anne’s-Belfield School on Tuesday. 

Lythcott-Haims first noticed overparenting as the dean of freshmen at Stanford University. Around 1998, she saw that parents were dropping their children off at college and not wanting to leave. 

Over time, Lythcott-Haims and her fellow educators watched the number of these overly involved parents grow. In one case, at the University of Miami, “Some freshman parents ... installed a webcam in the freshman dorm room. No, it was not for any untoward reason,” Lythcott-Haims said, as the audience in the St. Anne’s auditorium gasped. “They just wanted to make sure their child was awake every morning.”

Lythcott-Haims sees such stories as clues to a darker trend: rising rates of anxiety and depression among college students. 

According to an American College Health Association survey, 62 percent of undergraduates felt overwhelming anxiety between the spring of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Almost 12 percent of undergrads had seriously considered suicide at some point within the same time frame.

“They end up lacking resilience, which comes from trying it themselves and failing and trying again,” Lythcott-Haims said. “So, when the bad thing comes in the form of a B or a rejection from a club, they’ve not had to contend with that and they wonder, ‘Am I still me? Am I still loved?’”

Although Lythcott-Haims draws from her experience as a parent and former dean, she has suggestions for how high schools can reduce both student and parent stress. One policy example is to prevent parents from bringing forgotten homework and sports equipment to school. 

“We parents are doing a lot of rescuing, because we’re so worried about the consequences our kid will suffer if they forgot their homework,” Lythcott-Haims said in an interview. “[This] teaches our kid only one thing, which is that they will always be rescued by their parent. Schools can help out by drawing some clear lines.”

Another potential policy change involves limiting student workload. Lythcott-Haims has a personal stake in workload worries, stemming from her son’s experience in 10th grade.

“He was doing five hours of homework a night,” Lythcott-Haims recalled. “Sawyer, who wants to read at breakfast and we let him, who wants to read at dinner and we don’t let him — unless we decide it’s a family reading dinner — he’s stopped bringing a book to breakfast. Instead, he’s sitting there in our little breakfast counter, [just] holding his head up.”

Lythcott-Haims and her husband wondered whether Sawyer needed to take fewer classes, but they also worried that dropping a class would limit his college possibilities. Finally, Lythcott-Haims asked her son what he wanted to do.

“And his eyes brightened, just in having this conversation, just in being seen for the fact that he’s barely keeping his head afloat. And he said, ‘Mom, I’ll think about it,’” Lythcott-Haims told the audience. “The next day at breakfast, Sawyer came down with a book under his arm.”

Lythcott-Haims made it clear who her target audience is. 

Become the parent ... [who says], ‘You know what, I would love it if she’d apply to St. Olaf.’ And your friends will be like, ‘What? Saint what?’

Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of “How to Raise an Adult”

“The problem that I have written about, helicopter parenting, is a problem squarely situated in middle, upper-middle class and wealthy families. It’s hard to overparent when you are struggling to make ends meet.”

Homework loads reflect this divide, particularly in Advanced Placement and other college-level classes.

“For kids who are in an under-resourced environment, having access to an AP test gives them an opportunity to demonstrate what they know that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Lythcott-Haims said. “The problem is that at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum, kids are expected to take all of the APs that a school offers, or many, many, many of them.”

Lythcott-Haims said she would like to see colleges cap the number of AP classes they will consider during the admissions process. 

But her most passionate point of advocacy is against the race to get into the top 20 schools — as defined by the U.S. News &World Report. 

“They rank colleges based on factors that have virtually nothing to do with the quality of the undergraduate experience,” Lythcott-Haims said. “Students’ SAT scores are a huge fraction of a school’s score in U.S. News.”

SAT scores can be perfected through repeated testing, Lythcott-Haims argues, so U.S. News rankings reflect parents’ ability to pay for the testing. Instead of weighting rankings so highly, she would like to see parents focus on fit.

“If your ego needs your kid to attend some school so you can feel better about yourself, well, that’s what therapy is for,” Lythcott-Haims told the audience. “Become the parent ... [who says], ‘You know what, I would love it if she’d apply to St. Olaf.’ And your friends will be like, ‘What? Saint what?’”

St. Olaf College in Minnesota is one of 44 institutions on the Colleges That Change Lives list, which focuses on the amount of individual attention students receive. Lythcott-Haims also suggests looking at data from the Outcomes Survey, which focuses on alumni job search experiences and career satisfaction. 

“You will become the parent where other parents are like, ‘If it’s good enough for him, maybe it’s good enough for me — I mean, my kid.’”

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860 days ago
Charlottesville, Virginia
755 days ago
Thanks for sharing! What other colleges change lives??
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First clip from the upcoming Mister Rogers documentary


Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary film about Mister Rogers, is premiering at the Sundance film festival tomorrow. This short clip is the first look we’ve gotten at the movie:

Love is at the root of everything — all learning, all parenting, all relationships — love or the lack of it. And what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become.

Love is the root of all learning. That has been a real theme around here lately. In my introduction to Noticing, I noted this recap by A.O. Scott of a favorite scene in Lady Bird:

Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith), the principal, has read Lady Bird’s college application essay. “It’s clear how much you love Sacramento,” Sister Sarah remarks. This comes as a surprise, both to Lady Bird and the viewer, who is by now aware of Lady Bird’s frustration with her hometown.

“I guess I pay attention,” she says, not wanting to be contrary.

“Don’t you think they’re the same thing?” the wise sister asks.

The idea that attention is a form of love (and vice versa) is a beautiful insight.

Oh, I can’t wait for this movie! (thx, katharine)

Tags: Fred Rogers   movies   video   Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
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898 days ago
Charlottesville, Virginia
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A man turned his backyard shed into the top-rated restaurant in London

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Having previously written fake reviews for restaurants on TripAdvisor for £10 a pop, Oobah Butler decided to go one step further. He listed his backyard shed on TripAdvisor, set up a dummy website (complete with appetizing food photos constructed from bleach tablets and shaving cream), and wrote a bunch of phony reviews.

The Shed at Dulwich

As the shed began climbing in the London restaurant ranking, Butler began to get more and more requests for reservations from actual people.

Emails? I check my computer: tens of “appointment” requests await. A boyfriend tries to use his girlfriend’s job at a children’s hospital for leverage. TV executives use their work emails.

Seemingly overnight, we’re now at #1,456. The Shed at Dulwich has suddenly become appealing. How?

I realise what it is: the appointments, lack of address and general exclusivity of this place is so alluring that people can’t see sense. They’re looking at photos of the sole of my foot, drooling. Over the coming months, The Shed’s phone rings incessantly.

And then, after it reaches #1, Butler actually opens The Shed at Dulwich for one night.

Tags: food   Oobah Butler   restaurants   TripAdvisor
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945 days ago
crazy internet
Charlottesville, Virginia
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