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Alarms and diversions for the thinking person

Saturday, September 21, 2013 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“In a clarion call that will likely rival his insta-legendary 'everything's amazing and nobody's happy' diatribe delivered nearly five years ago on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, comedian Louis C.K. explains — to Conan, once again — exactly why he dislikes the culture of smartphones and why he would never get one for his kids.

C.K. starts off by suggesting smartphone usage is the reason kids today are meaner:

“'I think these things are toxic, especially for kids ... they don't look at people when they talk to them and they don't build empathy. You know, kids are mean, and it's 'cause they're trying it out. They look at a kid and they go, “you're fat,” and then they see the kid's face scrunch up and they go, “oh, that doesn't feel good to make a person do that.” But they got to start with doing the mean thing. But when they write “you're fat,” then they just go, “mmm, that was fun, I like that.”'

“From there, C.K. moved on to expound on the larger issue: The negative emotional effect that smartphones have on grown-ups. …

“'You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. … That's why we text and drive. I look around, pretty much 100 percent of the people driving are texting. And they're killing, everybody's murdering each other with their cars. But people are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don't want to be alone for a second because it's so hard.'”

From “Louis C.K.'s Explanation of Why He Hates Smartphones is Sad, Brilliant,”

A quiz

In 1964, a capsized freighter was refloated in Kuwait by filling its hull with polystyrene balls. Where did this idea originate?

Wisdom of the ages

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

— Aristotle

Current wisdom

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”

— Wayne Gretzky

Quiz answer

In a 1949 Donald Duck comic, in which Donald and his nephews raised a yacht using pingpong balls.

Snob words

ailurophobia (eye-lure-ah-PHO-beah), n.: an abnormal fear of cats.

Today in history

Without warning, a powerful Category 3 hurricane slams into Long Island and southern New England, causing 600 deaths and devastating coastal cities and towns. Also called the Long Island Express, the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 was the most destructive storm to strike the region in the 20th century.

Now you know

The names of all the continents end with the letter they start with.