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Week 3/29/20

PUBLISHED: April 9, 2020

In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do. 


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“I accidentally invented a necklace that buzzes continuously unless you move your hand close to your face,” he said.

“After scrapping that idea, I was still a bit bored, playing with the magnets. It’s the same logic as clipping pegs to your ears—I clipped them to my earlobes and then clipped them to my nostril and things went downhill pretty quickly when I clipped the magnets to my other nostril.”

Reardon said he placed two magnets inside his nostrils, and two on the outside. When he removed the magnets from the outside of his nose, the two inside stuck together. Unfortunately, the researcher then attempted to use his remaining magnets to remove them.

Director of Center for Media and Citizenship Siva Vaidhyahathan
Excerpt from “Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device” in the Guardian


I’ve said that David interested me. Not Sarah. Sarah obsessed me. I don’t use the word lightly. Remember that the two words don’t represent differences of degree. The dictionary tells us that to be interested by someone is to feel “attentive, concerned, or curious.” Curiosity is a friendly emotion and even a moral position. Those whom we make the objects of our curiosity we don’t prejudge or condemn. We don’t fear and loathe them. My therapist, in our time together, often urged me to “stay curious” and it was a nice thing for him to try and make me do, unsuccessful as he way, because curious is a nice way to feel.

Being curious toward, interested in David made me feel like I’d bought into him, made a choice. By contrast, being obsessed by Sarah was a form of enslavement. “Obsess” comes from the Latin obsessus, past participle of obsidere, from ob- (against or in front of) + sedere (to sit) = “sit opposite to” (literal) = “to occupy, frequent, besiege” (figurative). When we say we are obsessed, we say we’re possessed, controlled, haunted by something or somebody else. We are beset, under siege. We can’t choose. I was obsessed with Sarah, meaning obsessed by her, deprived by her very existence of some quality I needed to feel complete and in charge of myself.

Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from Trust Exercise by Susan Choi


Few of us any longer believe that pandemics are the creation of occult forces. Should we consider the contribution of 500 million sickly, drugged birds—birds that are the primordial source of all flu viruses—an underlying influence propelling the creation of new pathogens that attack humans? What about the 500 million pigs with compromised immune systems in confinement facilities?

In 2004, a collection of the world’s experts on emerging zoonotic diseases gathered to discuss the possible relationship between all those compromised and sick farm animals, and pandemic explosions. Before getting to their conclusions, it is helpful to think about the new pathogens as two related but distinct kinds of public-health concerns. The first concern is a more general one about the relationship between factory farms and all kinds of pathogens, like new strains of campylobacter, salmonella, or E. coli. The second public-health concern is the more particular one: humans are setting the conditions for the creation of the superpathogen of all superpathogens, a hybrid virus that could cause a repeat, more or less, of the Spanish flu of 1918. These two concerns are intimately related.

Social Media Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer


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