What I'm Reading (March 16)

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — Mar 16, 2023
Recycle or reuse? Body Rituals in Nacirema The Real Tools of War Killing Roald Dahl's "Little Darlings"
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay


“You walk into your local coffee shop, hand the barista your reusable coffee mug, and pat yourself on the back for not using one of those “bad for the environment” single-use cups.

Granted, using a reusable cup lowers the waste-management environmental impacts. But you may not have considered other aspects of the cup’s life cycle such as the materials and energy that went into making your sturdier reusable cup, the soap and hot water that will be necessary to wash it, and the energy source behind the heat of this washing water.”

OK, for the coffee lovers out there, and you know who I am speaking to, is it better to reuse your cup or recycle? From the Anthropocene Magazine, Reusable or Disposable Which coffee cup has a smaller footprint?


“In 1956, the journal American Anthropologist published a short paper by University of Michigan anthropologist Horace Miner titled “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema,” detailing the habits of this “North American group.” Among the “exotic customs” it explores are the use of household shrines containing charm-boxes filled with magical potions and visits to a ‘holy-mouth-man.’”

The author goes on to decry their society. “Looking from far and above, from our high places of safety in the developed civilization, it is easy to see all the crudity and irrelevance of magic.”

As it turns out, as JSTOR points out, Nacirema is America spelled backwards. If you have a minute read the original anthropological paper, it holds up remarkably well despite the tone. You can find, Body Ritual Among the Nacerima, here.


So much ink has been wasted on the new AI especially when it brings up the spector of SkyNet and other dystopia views of war. The tools of war may not be as surprising as we think.

“Maximizing Destruction Per Dollar

Several useful strategies emerge when fighting an existential war.

  • Cheap Precision
  • Avoid Unreliable Systems
  • Manage Survivability vs. Expendability
  • Focus on Mass Production
  • Have Appropriate Designs Ready”

From the blog of Austin Vernon, The Weapons That Win World Wars


As a reader I am not a fan of banning books. Nor do I think they age-better if updated.

“New editions of the works of Roald Dahl — the best-selling British novelist whose children’s classics include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda” and “James and the Giant Peach” — have been rewritten in an effort to make them less offensive and more inclusive, according to a representative from the author’s estate.”

Sure you can make a case that the Oompa Loompas were enslaved or that Augustus Gloop, “a nine-year-old boy who was so enormously fat he looked as though he had been blown up with a powerful pump” goes against today’s narrative of excess weight. But was that Dahl’s intent? Does intent even matter, after all, reading is a private conversation between reader and author.


From the NY Times, Roald Dahl’s Books Are Rewritten to Cut Potentially Offensive Language