Am I going to die this year?
Death isn’t the cheeriest of topics for a Weekend Read, but the mathematical puzzle posed by Brian Skinner on the NPR blog is genuinely intriguing, and has lovely illustrations to boot. I won’t spoil your reading experience by revealing the dangling question Skinner ends on – I’ll simply observe that I’ve no idea what the answer might be.
Today, I was given a Betty’s gift-bag as a prize in a work-related competition, and had to submit a selfie showing me and the prize to prove that I’d received it! Unfortunately, Wendy is on call tonight, so I didn’t have her stylistic advice and supervision… I hope it’s turned out okay!
Fakebook is an autobiographical story by Dave Cicirelli, a young man who decided to divorce his Facebook updates from reality. He falsely announced via a Facebook status update that he was quitting his job and going travelling. Most of his Facebook friends believed him, and a few close friends were co-opted into posting supportive comments and messages to increase the believability of his tale. The cover calls this an “elaborate hoax”, but I find that description difficult: there’s nothing particularly elaborate about writing fake Facebook status updates, or posting (badly) Photoshopped photographs.
From this exercise, Cicirelli attempts to make observations about the nature of friendship, life in the digital world, and so on. Unfortunately, his observations are such self-evident truths that they needn’t be demonstrated through this sort of means. Is it necessary to write a book about fooling your friends for six months to realise that friendships change, develop and sometimes disintegrate as lives take different courses?
For me, the whole book just fell flat. For some people, no doubt, the fictional adventures of “Fake Dave” are rip-roaringly hilarious. I’m sure that there’s a segment of the market somewhere that finds the idea of pretending to unravel toilet paper around a horse and cart on an Amish farm hilarious. I suspect Mr Cicirelli himself is in this market segment. I’m afraid I’m not, and so I found the ever-growing succession of such fictional idiocy a drag. I struggled to get through this book.
Other reviewers have expressed concerns about the ethics of the deception involved in this project. I’m not overly concerned by that. Nobody is under any obligation to share the truth on Facebook, and I suspect that most events reported on Facebook are fictionalised to some extent to show their author in a better light. This is nothing more than an extension of that idea.
About a third of the way into the book, there is a delicious moment, however. Mr Cicirelli goes on a date with a girl four years his junior. He explains his online exploits to her, and she gives him short shrift, essentially dismissing the project as deceptive and pointless. In response, Mr Cicirelli calls her immature. He might have done rather better to listen to her.
Until a couple of weeks ago, this was a furniture store near our house… it’s now awaiting the arrival of a shiny new M&S, due to open in November.
The vitamin myth
I take a multivitamin on a daily basis. I do this despite knowing that the evidence shows that it’s unlikely to do me any good, though I’m healthily sceptical of the evidence that suggests it’s actively harmful (I think that this effect might reasonably be explained by confounders). I suppose my own behaviour is more of a habit than anything.
With that in mind, I was delighted to come across an article discussing this very topic in The Atlantic, written by none other than Professor Paul Offit, a well-respected paediatrician. In fact, as it turns out, the article is an extract from his book. In the extract, he gives a little of the history of the vitamin supplement history, and sets out the research evidence on the topic. But, more than that, he tells a truly engaging story, and leads one through it almost by hand. It’s a really great read!
This is Halo, the new sculpture at the centre of the new(ish) Trinity Square in Gateshead. It was designed by Steve Newby, and apparently represents the town’s industrial heritage and the cycle of regeneration. I’m not sure quite what aspect of Gateshead is represented by the wonkiness, though.