New research findings say all the things we don’t want to believe.

You’re uglier than you think:

The evidence from psychological research suggests instead that we tend to think of our appearance in ways that are more flattering than are warranted… Most of us think that we are better than we actually are — not just physically, but in every way.

Chores make children happier:

Children who help more at home feel a larger sense of obligation and connectedness to their parents, and that connection helps them weather life’s stressful moments — in other words, it helps them be happier.

Facebook is bad for community:

Little Altena exemplifies a phenomenon long suspected by researchers who study Facebook: that the platform makes communities more prone to racial violence. And, now, the town is one of 3,000-plus data points in a landmark study that claims to prove it.

As balm for all that, here’s a poem by Jane Kenyon, Heavy Summer Rain. It’s apropos, I think, for this long-awaited damp weekend in smoky Seattle.


It’s one thing to look in the mirror and, perhaps begrudgingly, accept what you see. It’s another to see your reflection and marvel at what stares back. Our faces—and everything beneath them—are incredible.

The September cover story of National Geographic is about 21-year-old Katie Stubblefield, the world’s youngest recipient of a face transplant. I’m going to spend as little time summarizing the story as possible because this is beautiful, reverent, science writing. I don’t want to rob anyone of the experience of reading this story for themselves.

But to make sure you understand what I mean here’s a little excerpt:

“Take a moment to look in a mirror. What do you see? Most of us would answer, “Myself.”

My. Self. Our faces are the outer image we attach to our inner sense of self, to who we are and where we fit in the world. Faces root us in our culture, in the rituals and rules about how we present ourselves and how we see others. In some cultures, faces are veiled and hidden. Other cultures draw attention to faces with displays of tattoos, piercings, and scarification. In the contemporary world, faces are often a blank canvas to be manipulated with cosmetic surgery, injections, and intricate makeup techniques learned on YouTube. If we allow them to age, our faces will tell our life story. They connect us to the past in our ancestors and to the future in our children. …

…Look in the mirror again. Think about what you can do with that face. You can kiss the ones you love, bite into an apple, sing, and sigh. You can smell freshly cut grass. You can gaze at your newborn and touch your cheek to his. Beyond showing (or not showing) our emotions, faces enhance our ability to communicate with language. We smile, we wrinkle our noses, we wink, we grimace, we perform countless expressions as we converse, often without even realizing it.

Now visualize what goes on beneath that astonishing face. We have 43 mimetic muscles to express emotion and articulate speech. We have four major muscles on each side of the face that move the jaws and complex lingual muscles that assist in swallowing and speech. The face is also made up of layers of blood vessels, sensory and motor nerves, cartilage, bone, and fat. Cranial nerves control the motor muscles and transmit sensory information to the brain, enabling us to see, smell, taste, hear, and feel sensation on the skin.

Go back to the mirror one more time. Look at your incredible face.

Imagine what it would mean to lose it.

And if you’re not a total logophile, the photographs are breathtaking. These are intimate, unique moments captured by journalists who spent more than a year with Stubblefield and her family. My jaw literally dropped upon seeing Katie’s family gazing at her for the first time post-surgery. (Fair warning, none of the pictures are super graphic but a few are from surgery and show some blood.) The piece about how Katie’s story affected the photographers is well worth the visit, too

This is a story about the power of grace, the wonder of medical science, and the courage it takes to heal—inside and out.

Kelsey H.

Earlier this week, I read an intensely well-written and thought-out article about the impacts of negative Facebook content. For years, researchers have speculated Facebook somehow makes populations more prone to racial violence. Now, it’s proven. Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average in Germany—no matter the type of community in which this occurred—attacks on refugees increased by about 50 percent. When those places experienced power outages, attacks on refugees dropped at the same study-determined rate at which heavy Facebook use correlated with boosts in violence. But it’s not all numbers. The NYT reporter connects the stats to real stories from the same places studied.

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  • In other news, I’ve been reading up on this year’s nation-wide prison strike (this link is Washington Post). ThinkProgress did a pretty good contextual coverage on it as well.

    We all know prisoners can’t vote. (Their populations are counted for states, weighing things improperly, but that’s beside the point.) Now, a county in Georgia is trying to use the American Disability Act to suppress even more votes.


    Good news, bad news, and laughable news in clean energy this week: On the one hand, record-breaking, super-sized solar farms are going up all over the world, and mostly in less-developed countries. The cost of solar has now fallen so low that building gigantic fields of PV panels in remote locations is comparable to other forms of power generation—even with transmission grids that have to move electricity over hundreds of miles.  Maybe someone should tell that to these guys from Utah, who apparently think it’s a good idea to bring Alberta-style tar-sands mining to the US. Because more oil from the dirtiest source on the planet is exactly what we need. (Totally unrelated note, did you know using sarcasm is an effective way to talk about climate change?)

    And finally, the laughable: Texas is seeking billions of dollars in public money to build a “coastal spine” of seawalls to protect its oil industry from…climate change! Despite the fact that they don’t believe in climate change! Or federal spending! …what?

    In food news, read this before you jump on board the Ugly Produce bandwagon, and maybe think twice about that low-carb diet.


    Previous Sightline articles have noted that Spokane regularly gets high sustainability ratings among US medium-sized cities and now Grist reports that Spokane’s City Council just voted to get 100 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030, making it the state’s second city (after Edmonds) to set such a goal. It’s aspirational, to be sure, but maybe other cities in the region can set similar aspirations.

    Along with smoky summers, another indication that “climate change is here,” is beachfront property eroding into the ocean, with the concomitant threat of lower real estate values, as reported in the Washington Post.

    Jon Talton, still my favorite Seattle Times economics columnist, reported on Peak Oil, which thanks to technology, may have been predicted too early; and Peak Oil Demand, which may be coming with international attention on climate change and improved renewable technologies.

    John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Weekend Reading and other posts.