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Tag Archives: pocket

  • What Ever Happened To Waterbeds?
    I’m old enough to know about them, but not old enough to have owned one. Maybe I tried one in a store at some point. But now, I know why they aren’t popular anymore.

    Here’s the thing about waterbeds, though: They were high maintenance. Installing one meant running a hose into your bedroom and filling the mattress up with hundreds of gallons of H2O—a precarious process that held the potential for a water-soaked bedroom. Waterbeds were also really, really heavy. In addition to the filled mattress, the frame—which had to support all that water weight—could be a back-breaker. When the mattress needed to be drained, an electric pump or some other nifty siphoning tricks were required. Waterbeds could also spring leaks (as Edward Scissorhands showed), which could be patched but, again, added to the cost and hassle.

  • The married couples in Hong Kong who live apart
    Housing is so expensive in HK that married couples often live separately, with their parents. Apparently 1 in 10 couples are in this situation!

    Lok, 31, lives with her parents in North Point, in Hong Kong Island’s Eastern District. It is more than an hour away from the island of Tsing Yi, where 35-year-old Chau lives with his parents. Their three-year-old daughter, Yu, spends Monday to Thursday with Lok and the weekend at Chau’s. They can’t move in together in one of their family homes, Lok says, because the bedroom space is simply too small for two adults and a child.

  • Physics Explains Why Time Passes Faster As You Age
    It’s not just psychological, time actually does past faster when you’re older.

    time as we experience it represents perceived changes in mental stimuli. It’s related to what we see. As physical mental-image processing time and the rapidity of images we take in changes, so does our perception of time. And in some sense, each of us has our own “mind time” unrelated to the passing of hours, days, and years on clocks and calendars, which is affected by the amount of rest we get and other factors.

  • Here Comes the Bride. And the Bride. And the Bride. Mass Weddings Boom in Lebanon.
    The western world is focused on individualism and nothing more so then a wedding. It’s about THE couple. But in other cultures, it’s beneficial to “the state” as well as the participants to have group weddings.

    Ali Ala’ideen, a groom whose hair was slicked back like Elvis’s, said that he and his new wife could not afford a honeymoon, but that he was grateful to be married.

    “If it wasn’t a group wedding,” he said, “we wouldn’t have been able.”

  • How I Learned to Cycle Like a Dutchman
    The story of how cycling works in the Netherlands. When bikes rule the road, things are different.

    For cyclists used to being second-class citizens, watching bikes navigate the Netherlands is revelatory. It’s not just that Dutch train stations all house massive underground bicycle garages, with thousands of bicycles, or fietsen, locked up on tiered racks. It’s not just that every busy street has a handsome bike lane, paved in dark-red brick. It’s that on Dutch streets, bikes rule the road. They take priority in design and traffic flow. Traffic circles are laid out so that cyclists need never stop for cars. Busy intersections often have overpasses or underpasses, so that cyclists never have to slow down.

    Most important, drivers look out for cyclists, cede the right of way, and are rarely surprised by them. After all, nearly all those drivers are cyclists themselves.


  • Why did we wait so long for the bicycle?
    Interesting discussion of some factors that may have delayed the invention of a bicycle

    Horses were a common and accepted mode of transportation at the time. They could deal with all kinds of roads. They could carry heavy loads. Who then needs a bicycle? In this connection, it has been claimed that the bicycle was invented in response to food shortages due to the “Year without a Summer”, an 1816 weather event caused by the volcanic explosion of Mt. Tambora the year earlier, which darkened skies and lowered temperatures in many parts of the world. The agricultural crisis caused horses as well as people to starve, which led to some horses being slaughtered for food, and made the remaining ones more expensive to feed. This could have motivated the search for alternatives.

  • How a Single Pair of Sneakers Explains the Booming Billion-Dollar Sneaker Resale Industry
    I used to go to sports card stores and look at their displays of valuable cards to see what I couldn’t afford and what my collection could potentially be worth. I guess the new generation looks at sneakers instead.

    The inspection merely starts with the smell test. Zac rotates the shoebox and inspects it for the smallest details. If the shoes are tightly crammed in the box, they’re likely fake; if Nike’s trademark orange is lighter than usual, they’re likely fake; if the zeroes listing out the shoe’s code look wonky, they’re likely fake; if the wrong text in the shoe’s description is bolded, they’re likely fake; if the wrapping paper inside the box rips too easily, they’re likely fake. From there, Zac goes further down the rabbit hole, to the shoes themselves, which take inspiration from the classic Air Jordan 3: the craggy “Elephant”-printed pattern should actually cut into the grey leather, the perforations on the white toebox should all line up to form a series of increasingly smaller “U” shapes, the eyelets should be spaced evenly. Zac has touched so many shoes he knows what the leather should feel like, and while the tongue on this Dunk is yellowing, it’s a natural yellow, not “like a piss-yellow,” he says, which would suggest fraud.

  • Why Are There Palm Trees in Los Angeles?
    I’m sure you identify LA with palm trees just like I do, but they are not native to the state! It was a conscious move to line the LA streets with them, and there’s a lot more interesting stuff about palm tree in general.

    One way is that they’re outrageously easy to move around: they don’t have elaborate root systems like oak trees, but instead a dense yet small root ball. This can be pretty easily dug up and transported, then planted, and palms are not particular about where they are, as long as they have sun and water. To make things easier for developers, palms, being more like grasses than trees, don’t demonstrate all that much difference between individuals; one Mexican fan palm is pretty much like the next. And if you’re a developer, consistency and ease of transportation is a fantastic combination: you can line the streets with them, or plant one on each side of an entrance!

  • Ninja-Proof Seats
    Psychology Today has a lot of interesting articles that explain new concepts or classifications. The only problem is that each really only require a paragraph so the remainder of the article or issue is fluff or ads. This article introduces the concept of prospect and refuge when it comes to picking a seat.

    The term “ninja-proof seat” may be used primarily by those fluent in Python and JavaScript, but you will find people who are adamant about their need for one in any office you go to. This is because they provide what geographer Jay Appleton called refuge and prospect.

  • 9 questions about the Hong Kong protests you were too embarrassed to ask
    A couple of insights about the background of the current HK protests

    It’s also important to note that a key date is coming up: October 1, 2019, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It’s a bad look to crush a popular movement if you’re trying to celebrate the greatness of your country.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t look good to have an entire city spending weeks leading up to your anniversary challenging your authority and risking their safety for democracy. Some analysts and protesters think China might want to go ahead and intervene before the October 1 date; others think China may show restraint as the world watches.


  • Inside the “largest launch of a produce item in American history”
    There’s a big Apple launch coming up, and it’s not tech. Well, not handheld tech. I mean, not something that you can use, but actually eat. It’s the Cosmic Crisp!

    Over years of testing, the new cross reliably produced round fruit with dark red skin, the color of wine. The Cosmic Crisp has flesh that’s creamy white, is so dense that the apple feels heavy in your hand, and has a flavor that is pleasant, a bit more sweet than zing. Most important, it cleaves cleanly in your mouth — a crunch that lasts a long time in controlled-atmosphere storage, all the way around the calendar and into the next harvest season. From people in the industry, I heard the phrase “excellent eating experience” so often I began to imagine it in capital letters, with its own ™. When I enlisted some regular-world people to taste the apple, one crunched into an approximately seven-month-old specimen and said, with appreciation, “I can feel the structure of its insides.”

  • Half-empty boxes of Milk Duds, underfilled Halo Top: people keep suing over “slack fill” in food
    TMI around the legal industry that exists to sue food companies because there is too much empty space within their packaging.

    Usually the plaintiff, the client, is not really somebody who came into the office one day and was upset. It happens. But usually these lawyers hire people to go out and find things for them, and they say, “Go over to the grocery store, see if you see anything that’s slack filled, or anything that has language that’s misleading.” So they actually roam the aisles of these grocery stores and other types of stores, like lions looking for zebras. There’s a bunch of lawyers I deal with and that’s all they do.

  • Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’?
    A great linguistic breakdown as to how ‘Eh’ is used. Seems true in my experience.

    Other dialects of English and other languages have some similar tags. “Right,” “okay,” “yes,” and “you know” are all used in some of the same ways as “eh.” In French, “hein” (pronounced “anh,” the same vowel sound in “splat”) is quite similar, as is the Japanese “ne,” the Dutch “hè,” the Yiddish “nu,” and the Spanish “¿no?” These differ in some ways from “eh,” as “eh” can be used in some ways that the other tags cannot be and vice versa, but what really makes “eh” different is less about the way it’s used and more about its place in Canadian society.

  • Why the French love to say no
    Another language/linguistics article. This one is about French people and apparently their knee-jerk reaction to saying ‘Non’ to any question.

    the French have crafted a variety of ways to say no. ‘Ça risque d’être compliqué’ (‘that may be complicated’) is likely the least confrontational way of saying that a request is unlikely to be granted. ‘Ç’est hors de question’ (‘it’s out of the question’) is perhaps the most definitive version, cutting off any hopes of arguing one’s case.

  • The Illegal Ramen Vendors of Postwar Tokyo
    Ramen is not a traditional Japanese food. It became popular due to post-WWII circumstances, which you can learn more about in the article.

    Foods rich in fat and strong flavors became known as “stamina food,” according to Professor George Solt, author of The Untold History of Ramen. Ramen was very different than the milder, seaweed-based noodle soups of traditional Japanese cuisine. Okumura Ayao, a Japanese food writer and professor of traditional Japanese food culture at Kobe Yamate University, once expressed his shock at trying ramen for the first time in 1953, imagining “himself growing bigger and stronger from eating this concoction.”


  • What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane
    It’s been 5 years since MH370 disappeared and we haven’t heard it on the news cycle lately. The mystery of what happened is more or less solved, even if the exact details are missing.

    Of all the profiles extracted from the simulator, the one that matched MH370’s path was the only one that Zaharie did not run as a continuous flight—in other words, taking off on the simulator and letting the flight play out, hour after hour, until it reached the destination airport. Instead he advanced the flight manually in multiple stages, repeatedly jumping the flight forward and subtracting the fuel as necessary until it was gone.

  • Inside the shadow world of scooter chargers
    What’s it like to make money from charging scooters? I always wanted to know, and now I do.

    I was finally able to retrieve three, and charged them in my kitchen. At 5 a.m., I awoke to release them to the nearest available “nest,” Bird’s term for its sanctioned drop-off locations, but had troubles with the app. No matter how many times I refreshed it, no nests showed up.

    Paranoid I’d be accused of hoarding if I didn’t dump the scooters before 7 a.m., I awkwardly walked them down the street and placed them in a nest outside someone’s house, making sure to copiously document the process in order to receive my $14 bounty (I charged two Birds for $5 and one for $4). It was windy that morning; the scooters kept falling over on unstable dirt. Walking away, light just breaking, I heard them clatter into a pile.

  • Why Weather Forecasting Keeps Getting Better
    Interesting article about why predicting weather is so important (particularly for war). I also found it illuminating how weather is predicted now.

    At weather-prediction centers around the world, Bjerknes’s equations have been tweaked and Richardson’s methods refined (the chess squares can now be as small as a couple of kilometres across), but the fundamental ideas are essentially the same. Blum describes the process of prediction as though there were two parallel worlds running in sequence: the real one, our own blue marble, and the simulated one, which lives inside the machine. Model Earth adjusts itself to match real Earth, to take into account all the observations fed in by “flying satellites, buoys and balloons,” and then it races ahead in fast-forward. Periodically, it pauses for real Earth to catch up, checks its answers, corrects anything it got wrong, makes adjustments, and then gallops off into the future again.

  • Watch Your Step
    The 10,000 step goal is the threshold for being active, but turns out that number is kind of arbitrary. Well at least we can all agree that increasing fitness is an improvement in lifestyle regardless of what the step goal actually is.

    This is all despite the fact that 10,000 steps is a completely arbitrary figure, one that originates from a successful Japanese marketing campaign in the mid-60s. In an attempt to capitalise on the immense popularity of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the company Yamasa designed the world’s first wearable step-counter, a device called a manpo-kei, which translates as “10,000-step meter”.

  • Why is airport food so expensive?
    I’ve noticed the prices have gone down, at least in Toronto where Tim Horton’s has opened, but it is still a problem.

    When a retail spot opens up in an airport, the city puts out a Request for Proposal (RFP) and opens it up for bids. An aspiring restaurant or storefront must declare a Minimum Annual Guarantee (MAG), or a base amount it pledges to pay the airport each year, based on set percentages of projected sales.

    For example, the airport might specify that it wants 10% of all sales up to $1m, and 12% on anything over $1m. If you estimate your sales at $1m, your MAG would be $100k per year; if you end up doing $1.5m in sales, you’ll pay $160k.

    A 2018 RFP for 9 retail openings at SFO lists MAG fees of between $365k and $630k per year and requires a 10-year commitment — a hefty cost for any small business, even one in a highly trafficked location.


  • We Are Nowhere Close to the Limits of Athletic Performance
    Recently I saw a quick video from F1 comparing pit stop from the olden days and now. Not surprisingly, changing tires and refueling the car is a lot faster now due to advances in technology and processes. It’s a lot like sports. However, this article says there’s one other factor – finding the outlier athletes.

    We find a similar story in the NBA with Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal was the first 7-footer in the league who retained the power and agility of a much smaller man. Neither a beanpole nor a plodding hulk, he would have been an athletic 200-pounder if scaled down to 6 feet in height. When Shaq got the ball near the hoop, no man (or sometimes even two men) could stop him from dunking it. Soon after his entry into the league, basket frames had to be reinforced to prevent being destroyed by his dunks. After the Lakers won three championships in a row, the NBA was forced to change their rules drastically—allowing zone defenses—in order to reduce Shaq’s domination of the game.

  • The weird world of kidnapping insurance
    A look at the world of kidnapping insurance, where a bunch of firms work in concert to keep fees low. It’s a strange life to tell yourself that you’re going to work every day so kidnappers won’t suffer inflation

    From Shortland’s perspective, that makes sound moral sense as well as sound business sense: By controlling the ransom payouts, you minimize the profits kidnappers make from each ransom, and thus minimize the money they can pump into their next kidnapping, or whatever other scheme the criminal or terrorist group they’re part of is working on. “If you left rich western families to negotiate these ransoms by themselves, they would probably do a lot more harm, and kidnapping would be a lot nastier, and more profitable for the kidnappers,” Shortland said. “Once you’re talking about multi-million dollar ransoms, then the people who can’t afford it — they get killed, or they just rot for years and years.”

  • Building a Cathedral
    I wouldn’t have picked this article if not for the fire at Notre Dame. But it raises an interesting question as to why cathedrals take so long to build. I guess the short answer is a slow trickle of money results in slow construction, and slow construction means dramatic changes can occur

    As Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote in The Black Swan, human lifetimes and the lifetimes of human projects seem to obey an opposite set of rules. For humans, “the older we get the less likely we are to live.” But once a project exceeds its due date, its estimated time to completion expands. While humans tend towards death, late projects become immortal. “The longer you wait,” writes Taleb, “the longer you will be expected to wait.”

  • Hand dryers v paper towels: the surprisingly dirty fight for the right to dry your hands
    While the article is about paper towels and air hand dryers, the deeper issue is that even in seemingly minor and trivial industries like this, there is a lot of lobbying and potentially fake science trying to make one side win.

    These were strange conclusions, because the Leeds study’s data was quite equivocal. The scientists sampled six different parts of the restrooms they visited. Only in two of these locations – on the floors, and on the surfaces of hand dryers or towel dispensers – did washrooms with dryers show appreciably more bacteria than those with paper towels. Even then, those higher numbers were half of those typically found on our own bathroom floors at home. Unless you were planning to caress the floor, it didn’t seem to matter

  • ‘We all suffer’: why San Francisco techies hate the city they transformed
    Every time I got to the Bay area, I think, wow this is a place where I wouldn’t want to live. Here’s some more reasons why.

    “It’s just not sustainable for a couple to live here,” he said. “A million-plus for a home with $300,000 down? Then when we have kids, $30,000 a year for private school? Who can afford that even making $300,000 a year? … There’s hundreds of other places in the country with the same restaurant culture or at least on par that cost half as much.”


  • The Day the Dinosaurs Died
    Half of this article is very interesting, where they talk about what they think happened the day the asteroid that caused a mass extinction hit the earth. The other half, about the ins-and-outs of fossil hunting is not so interesting, but I’m willing to sit through more of it just to hear the crazy hypothesis.

    When DePalma took out the fossil, he found underneath it a tooth from a mosasaur, a giant carnivorous marine reptile. He wondered how a freshwater fish and a marine reptile could have ended up in the same place, on a riverbank at least several miles inland from the nearest sea. (At the time, a shallow body of water, called the Western Interior Seaway, ran from the proto-­Gulf of Mexico up through part of North America.) The next day, he found a two-foot-wide tail from another marine fish; it looked as if it had been violently ripped from the fish’s body. “If the fish is dead for any length of time, those tails decay and fall apart,” DePalma said. But this one was perfectly intact, “so I knew that it was transported at the time of death or around then.” Like the mosasaur tooth, it had somehow ended up miles inland from the sea of its origin. “When I found that, I thought, There’s no way, this can’t be right,” DePalma said. The discoveries hinted at an extraordinary conclusion that he wasn’t quite ready to accept. “I was ninety-eight per cent con­vinced at that point,” he said.

  • The most powerful person in Silicon Valley
    I’m skeptical at this headline. Maybe I don’t know enough about the VC world, but does one person who heads a massive fund really yield that much influence? How much can he shift the direction of all of these huge companies that he is funding?

    His big-money bets agitate the venture capitalists who have long inhabited the dry stretch of lowlands between San Francisco and San Jose, a place where any fund over $1 billion was head-turning as recently as three years ago. Turns out, nobody likes competing with a bottomless-pocketed behemoth. “Have you seen the movie Ghostbusters? It’s like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man tramping around,” one VC tells me before I visit SoftBank. Then he asks me to ask Misra the question everyone in town wants to know: Who is Son investing in next?

  • Heaven or Highwater
    From a schadenfreude again, I’m fascinated with Miami. This article has some interesting perspective on how global warming and flooding won’t affect Miami.

    Another agent came in to look at the apartment and joined our conversation. She was young. If indeed we are talking thirty years before Miami Beachpocolypse, the first realtor and I will very possibly be dead, or close to it, when the shit really hits the fan here, but this woman will still be relatively young. Still, she did not seem to be losing a great deal of sleep over sunny day flooding, sea level rise, any of it.

    “From what I understand,” she said as she took in a turn in the apartment, her heels clacking across the pale floors, “Everybody has done these, like, research, and they have these like—like…” she was back, posed behind the kitchen island, her pastel nails splayed out on the varnished counter top. “I can’t think of the word now.”

    “Studies?” said the first realtor helpfully.

    “Yeah,” the younger woman. She said she knew about a guy that had “paid for like, a study. And basically it said, we shouldn’t be concerned . . . because it’s being figured out, and we shouldn’t be concerned. Unless you have a family, and you’re planning on staying here.”

  • The Coming Obsolescence of Animal Meat
    Wow, another food science/tech article. I guess this is an up and coming industry – and it is something I’m curious about too. This one is about lab grown meat. Seems a bit far off still, and I’m not sure whether it will ever get up to the scale/efficiency of the old fashioned way.

    For Finless Foods, a major hurdle is texture. It aims to make cultured bluefin tuna, which in animal form glistens like raspberry jam and springs back like a wet sponge. “I will not say we’ve fully solved that problem, because I’d be totally lying,” Selden said. The few journalists who have tasted the product were served a carp croquette that one reporter described as having “a pleasant aftertaste of the sea, though not fish as such.” Selden is looking into 3-D printing as a potential path to creating a sashimi-like simulacrum.

  • The professor who beat roulette
    Quick little story from the 60s about a professor who was able to game the system and win a bunch of money from casinos. Nothing illegal in here, just noticing some patterns. However, given that roulette is not a predictable game, I bet it wasn’t a rocketship to his prize money.

    European roulette wheels offered better odds than American wheels: They had 37 slots instead of 38, reducing the casino’s edge over the player from 5.26% to 2.7%. And, as Jarecki would discover, they were just his type of machine — old, janky, and full of physical defects.

    With his wife, Carol, he scouted dozens of wheels at casinos around Europe, from Monte Carlo (Monaco), to Divonne-les-Bains (France), to Baden-Baden (Germany). The pair recruited a team of 8 “clockers” who posted up at these venues, sometimes recording as many as 20,000 spins over a month-long period.

    Then, in 1964, he made his first strike.

    After establishing which wheels were biased, he secured a £25,000 loan from a Swiss financier and spent 6 months candidly exacting his strategy. By the end of the run, he’d netted £625,000 (roughly $6,700,000 today).


  • Let Children Get Bored Again
    An article about parenting that I connect with a lot – just give your kids time to do nothing!

    Because things happen when you’re bored. Some of the most boring jobs I’ve had were also the most creative. Working at an import factory after school, I pasted photos of ugly Peruvian sweaters onto sales sheets. My hands became encrusted with glue as the sweaters blurred into a clumpy sameness. For some reason, everything smelled like molasses. My mind had no choice but to drift into an elaborate fantasy realm. It’s when you are bored that stories set in. Checking out groceries at the supermarket, I invented narratives around people’s purchases. The man buying eggplant and a six-pack of Bud at 9 p.m.: Which was the must-get item and which the impulse purchase? How did my former fifth-grade teacher feel about my observing her weekly purchase of Nutter Butters?

  • When Kodak Accidentally Discovered A-Bomb Testing
    An unexpected side effect of the atom bomb was that it ruined a special type of film for Kodak customers. Kodak went to investigate and discovered that something interesting was happening…

    While he was studying the Indiana samples, Webb got word that a particular production run of strawboard from a plant in Tama, Iowa was also contaminated and fogging the Kodak film it carried. While Tama was 450 miles from Vincennes, there were striking similarities. The two production runs of strawboard had been completed within a month of each other. Tama’s radioactive spots also failed the radium test, meaning the cause was something else. Most telling, however, was that both mills sat next to rivers, with Vincennes on the Wabash River and the Iowa River cutting through Tama.

  • Meet the Exclusive Service Bringing Lunch to NYC’s Chinese Workforce
    Not surprised this is happening given the cost of meals in NYC. Even “fast food” is pretty expensive and is probably of the same flavor that Chinese people want. Glad to see that even though I’m not well versed in the Chinese community, I can find out what the Chinese are doing.

    Most of the food is available for between $10 and $20, portioned for solo diners and with diverse offerings. On one day in early February, workers near 111 Wall St. got options from Midtown’s HK Kitchen and Kung Fu Kitchen. The former presented some 40 menu items to choose from while the latter had about 20. On the same day, customers near the Columbia Medical Center, where many Chinese students work and live, received food from Tang Gong Zhu, a Flushing-based spicy hot pot place.

    It’s a boon for lovers of homey Chinese food in Midtown and FiDi, but it’s also been widely welcomed by restaurants. The new, captive audience means far more sales for the restaurants. Erbo Sun, the owner of Tang Gong Zhu, says that his restaurant does four to five YBB orders a week, with 60 to 70 orders on average per day. Since partnering with YBB to deliver beyond Flushing a year ago, the number of delivery orders has tripled.

  • America’s Professional Elite: Wealthy, Successful and Miserable
    This article resonates with me, especially every year after I attend CES. I lament the amount of money that is spent on things that are so frivolous.

    And finally, workers want to feel that their labors are meaningful. “You don’t have to be curing cancer,” says Barry Schwartz, a visiting professor of management at the University of California, Berkeley. We want to feel that we’re making the world better, even if it’s as small a matter as helping a shopper find the right product at the grocery store. “You can be a salesperson, or a toll collector, but if you see your goal as solving people’s problems, then each day presents 100 opportunities to improve someone’s life, and your satisfaction increases dramatically,” Schwartz says.

  • Stepping Into the Uncanny, Unsettling World of Shen Yun
    I’m glad that someone, somewhere out there, has decided to see Shen Yun and explain what it is. I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to see it (I saw a lot of Chinese arts when I was a kid), but at least now my curiosity has been satisfied.

    Aside from the organ harvesting, the homophobia, the anti-evolution ballad, and the Karl Marx apparition, the thing I found most odd about my Shen Yun experience in Houston was the hosts’ explanation of Chinese classical dance. This art form seemed to resemble both ballet and gymnastics, they said, but, they explained, ballet and gymnastics had in fact borrowed the traditional techniques of Chinese classical dance. The dancers were showcasing a tradition that was thousands of years old, they went on—a tradition that had been single-handedly rejuvenated by Shen Yun. It was impossible to see a show like this in China, because of the Communist regime, they told us.

    In February, I called up Emily Wilcox, a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Michigan and the author of the book “Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy.” “I studied Chinese classical dance at the Beijing Dance Academy for a year and a half,” she said, “and, a few weeks after I came back to Michigan, a group promoting Shen Yun came up to me at the mall, handed me a flyer, and gave me the whole spiel about how Chinese dance is banned in China. It was hilarious to me, and so ridiculous, and, in a way, it inspired me to write this history in my book.”


  • Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?
    Randomly, I added several articles that took existing thinking around health and argued that they are wrong. The first is around sunscreen and whether everyone needs to wear as much as experts say.

    At the same time, African Americans suffer high rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, internal cancers, and other diseases that seem to improve in the presence of sunlight, of which they may well not be getting enough. Because of their genetically higher levels of melanin, they require more sun exposure to produce compounds like vitamin D, and they are less able to store that vitamin for darker days. They have much to gain from the sun and little to fear.

    And yet they are being told a very different story, misled into believing that sunscreen can prevent their melanomas, which Weller finds exasperating. “The cosmetic industry is now trying to push sunscreen at dark-skinned people,” he says. “At dermatology meetings, you get people standing up and saying, ‘We have to adapt products for this market.’ Well, no we don’t. This is a marketing ploy.”

  • You Don’t Need Sports Drinks To Stay Hydrated
    Next is an article about Gatorade. Do you really lose enough electrolytes while being active to need it?

    Deborah Cohen, an investigations editor at the BMJ who was involved in the project and wrote a summary of the findings, recalls a study in which volunteers who fasted overnight were divided into two groups, one whose members were given a sports drink containing water, salts and sugar and another whose members received water. “People who were given the sports drink fared better,” she says. “Well, no shit.” If you haven’t had any food in 12 hours and then you get a bit of sugar, of course you’ll perform better than the people still running on empty. But to say that this means the sports drink is superior to whatever a normal person would consume leading up to or during exercise just isn’t generalizable, she says. “Who starves themselves overnight and then goes to perform some exercise?” And yet the BMJ investigation found that this type of study design is surprisingly common among tests of nutritional products.

  • White gold: the unstoppable rise of alternative milks
    And finally, there is a rise in alternative milks (soy and others), but do and should they replace cow’s milk?

    We are all born milk drinkers. Babies’ guts produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, the sugar in breastmilk (and cow’s milk), into the simpler sugars glucose and galactose. But for the majority of humans, production of the enzyme lactase plummets after weaning. “From a human perspective – no, to go further than that, from a mammalian perspective – the norm is to be able to tolerate your mother’s breast milk, and then as you get past infancy, to stop producing lactase and become lactose intolerant,” said Adam Fox, a consultant paediatric allergist at Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospitals, and one of the UK’s leading food allergy experts. “Then you’ve got a small group of humans that have a mutation which means they maintain production of lactase into adulthood. Northern Europeans, the Masai [in east Africa], some Arab groups as well. But that’s the exception, not the rule.”

  • How chicken became the rich world’s most popular meat
    On a similar but less controversial topic, here are some reasons why chicken is so cheap (and popular).

    Fans of cheap chicken have selective breeding to thank. In the 1940s America launched a series of “Chicken of Tomorrow” competitions for farmers. The aim, as described by a newspaper at the time, was to produce “one bird chunky enough for the whole family—a chicken with breast meat so thick you can carve it into steaks, with drumsticks that contain a minimum of bone buried in layers of juicy dark meat, all costing less instead of more.” The result was something along the lines of the modern broiler chicken.

    Since then chickens have continued to get bigger. A study by Martin Zuidhof of the University of Alberta and colleagues documented this shift by comparing chickens that were selectively bred in 1957, 1978 and 2005. The authors found that at 56 days old the three birds had average weights of 0.9kg, 1.8kg and 4.2kg (see chart). As raising a single big bird is more efficient than raising two smaller ones, it now takes farmers just 1.3kg of grain to produce 1kg of chicken, down from 2.5kg of grain in 1985.

  • The Goalie Is a Hired Gun, and He’s Yours for $50 a Game
    This was a strange article because it appeared in the NY Times but is a very Canadian topic of the Uber market for goalies.

    Some even try to make itinerant goaltending their profession. Hamilton is one of those.

    A musician who plays the vibraphone in a six-person folk band called Beams, Hamilton said he makes more money being a rental goalie than playing music in clubs.

    He averages 10 games a week and keeps 40 Canadian dollars per game, paying 10 dollars in commission to a rental agency. His cut works out to about 1,600 Canadian dollars, or $1,220 in United States currency, a month. By his estimate, he has made well over 100,000 dollars in eight years as a rental goalie. And, yes, he said, he declares all of his income on his taxes.


  • The Titanic Was On Fire For Days Before The Iceberg Hit
    Might just be a crazy theory, but a fire could have contributed to a sinking of the Titanic. What’s most fascinating about this story (and a rabbit hole in itself) is that a coal fire is almost impossible to put out (and how does burning the coal in a furnace help??)

    An example of the difficulties with a coal fire would be the coal fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania. This fire broke out in a mine in the Northeast United States and has proven impossible to put out. How impossible you ask? It’s been burning since May 27, 1962.
    Yes, I’m being totally serious, it’s been burning for 56 years.

    Despite numerous efforts to deal with the fire, nothing has been able to stop it. It’s estimated that some sections where the fire is burning are about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and put up lethal gas clouds of carbon monoxide. Eventually, the federal government gave up trying to put out the fire and just bought all the land from the inhabitants, who moved. Centralia is now a tourist attraction, where visitors come to see the smoke and abandoned buildings.

  • How Premium Mediocre Fashion Conquered the World
    Short article but totally agree with it. Hate people wearing those Gucci shoes.

    On Lyst.com, the fashion shopping aggregator, plastic sandals by Givenchy and Gucci routinely top the most sought after product category.

    Premium mediocre in fashion is not a new phenomenon. During the ‘80s some Parisian couturiers licensed their name to mass market manufacturers. All of a sudden office workers could buy fifty-dollar Pierre Cardin button-up shirts. What followed was brand dilution and the perception that those names were no longer associated with luxury.

  • Technology, Ranked
    This, in practice, seems like a good idea. But it felt like it was written by a snarky teenager with an over emphasis on 21st century changes. Also, I don’t think a paragraph on each idea gives it enough justice, I guess we need a book about most important inventions of all time.

    57. Radar

    Radar literally won the war for the Allies in World War II. I mean, that’s the story we’re told. And it’s nearly true. So, um, thanks radar? Otherwise we might be living in an alternate reality world where a Nazi sympathizer was in the White House. What a nightmare.

  • Singapore’s ‘kiasu’ culture makes FOMO look like child’s play
    I wouldn’t say that kiasu is like FOMO, but it’s more like ‘not giving others an advantage’. Also, I think it’s more of a Chinese thing than a Singaporian thing.

    Giant, a local supermarket chain, ran a contest in 2017 to determine which neighborhood was the most kiasu. The winner, an eastern town called Tampines, impressed with a high percentages of residents admitting to excessively pressing the crosswalk button.

    They also fessed up in large numbers to reserving tables at busy coffee shops with a tissue packet or umbrella rather than more considerately ordering their food first and then finding a place to sit — a widespread practice known in Singlish as chope (You can also chope a parking space by having someone stand in it).

    Giant reportedly rewarded Tampines residents with free drinks, ice cream and more tissue packets for choping.

  • “Down The Rabbit Hole I Go”: How A Young Woman Followed Two Hackers’ Lies To Her Death
    A long story about how in today’s day and age, con men can be young and hackers. There’s more than the story here, but I guess it’s hard to distill the truth from all the crazy lies.

    As it turned out, Mir Islam posed a flight risk. Only two months after getting out of prison, he left the US in violation of the terms of his release. Islam slipped past immigration by claiming to be someone else: his younger brother, who is confusingly also named Mir Islam, and presenting that Mir Islam’s Bangladeshi passport as his own. According to Philippine government records, the older Mir Islam, posing as his younger brother, arrived in the country on July 24, 2018.


  • Uber Is Headed for a Crash
    Some very good reasons why Uber will fail.

    But, but, but — you may say — Uber has established a large business in cities over the world. Yes, it’s easy to get a lot of traffic by selling at a discount. Uber is subsidizing ride costs. Across all its businesses, Uber was providing services at only roughly 74 percent of their cost in its last quarter. Uber was selling its services at only roughly 64 percent of their cost in 2017, with a GAAP profit margin of negative 57 percent. As a reference point, in its worst four quarters, Amazon lost $1.4 billion on $2.8 billion in sales, for a negative margin of 50 percent. Amazon reacted by firing over 15 percent of its workers.

  • High score, low pay: why the gig economy loves gamification
    Along the same vein, here’s a look at a Lyft driver and a discussion at what drives them to drive more.

    But one week, after completing what felt like a million rides, I opened my feedback summary to discover that my rating had plummeted from a 4.91 (“Awesome”) to a 4.79 (“OK”), without comment. Stunned, I combed through my ride history trying to recall any unusual interactions or disgruntled passengers. Nothing. What happened? What did I do? I felt sick to my stomach.

    Because driver ratings are calculated using your last 100 passenger reviews, one logical solution is to crowd out the old, bad ratings with new, presumably better ratings as fast as humanly possible. And that is exactly what I did.

  • Marvel Icon Stan Lee Leaves a Legacy as Complex as His Superheroes
    With the death of Stan Lee, the tributes are coming out. Here’s one that is not so flattering of him. I heard Stan Lee talk last year and he was a very entertaining and engaging speaker. I thought that that was a skill that he picked up as he got older (and out of the direct work of creating superheroes). But I guess that has been a talent of his since day 1.

    Yet Kirby’s legacy and Lee’s proved to be inextricable. Marvel fans noticed a creative malaise after Kirby defected, a period that coincided with Lee stepping back from Marvel’s creative fare and moving to California to establish what would eventually become, after many fits, starts, and incarnations, Marvel Studios. Kirby fans reading the Fourth World noticed that despite Kirby’s unparalleled visuals and creations, his dialogue and characterization just weren’t up to par with Kirby’s Lee-scripted Marvel work. Kirby ended up returning to Marvel in 1975 for a half-hearted reunion.

  • What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles?
    I don’t know who Darius Miles is and I don’t know what happened to him. So I thought this article was going to be a self-written essay about how he lost all of his money. But no, it’s a somewhat behind the scenes report of his short career in the NBA and what happened after he left. Oh well, there’s 20 minutes lost

    I knew I was speeding. So I pull over, and I roll the window down, and I’m reaching over into the glove compartment to get my papers ….

    … Then I hear this voice. Big, booming voice.

    “WHERE YOU G’WAN, BOY?”

    I’m like, Damn, they got the sergeant on me or something?

    I turn to look out the window, and I can’t even see this dude’s face he’s so big. All I see is his chest.

    “I SAID WHERE YOU G’WAN BOY?”

    Then he bends down and looks in the window.

    Big, dumbass grin on his face.

    It’s Shaq.

    I’m like, “Yo! I’m going to practice! You made me late!”

    He don’t miss a beat. He taps side of my truck, turns around and says, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll pay your fine. Just holler at me.”

    I’m looking in the rearview mirror, like, How the hell …

    Shaq’s got one of those old-school police lights that you put on the hood of your car like you see on C.O.P.S.

    He gets in, laughing his ass off, waving at me.

  • The Triple Jeopardy of a Chinese Math Prodigy

    I’m not sure I should feel sorry for this guy. He tried to rip off the company where he worked at (the article doesn’t propose any alternate rationale for his actions), and the company pursued him relentlessly from using their IP.

    Appearing without a lawyer and clutching a plastic bag full of documents, Xu cut a pitiful figure. “The defendant has already been punished once,” he told the judge, undercounting by one. “It is excessive to punish him again.” He disputed whether the trading strategies were really as valuable, years later, as the hedge fund claimed.

    While the courts processed the cases against him, Xu was granted bail. He walked out of Harmondsworth Detention Centre this March 16, three years and seven months after he was first incarcerated. His first act as a free man was to order a family bucket from Kentucky Fried Chicken. The same day, Allen & Overy wrote to British immigration authorities asking them to take “all necessary steps” to keep Xu in the country.


  • Life and death on a superyacht
    The story of how billionaires have super yachts that may employ hundreds of people (I guess they are floating mansions). Sometimes the workers die, but are the billionaires criminally responsible? Even if they are not , then should be morally responsible?

    By the time Robin, Will’s mother Judith and his sister Rosanna, now 37, arrived in Monaco to join the search, the yacht had left. “The captain said: ‘Don’t worry, we threw some flowers over the side and gave his belongings to the police,’” Rosanna says, fighting back tears as she describes “the worst days of our lives”. “I couldn’t comprehend that the boat had gone before Will was found and before we got there,” she says. “How could they just leave a family to deal with the death of one of their crew, and the police and paperwork and everything? I can’t believe that if something goes wrong – if someone dies – they can just raise the anchor and leave.”

  • The Legend of Nintendo
    A high level look at the philosophy of Nintendo. They’ve been around since 1889!

    In the fall of 2012, the company was in one of its periodic slumps. It had just released the Wii U, the sequel to the phenomenally popular six-year-old Wii. The console featured HD graphics and a touchscreen controller, but from the start it felt off-kilter. The branding, for one thing. Wii U sounded so much like Wii, critics said, that it came across as a minor upgrade rather than an enthralling advance. Compelling games were slow to arrive, and sales were sluggish.

    When things click for Nintendo, a new console triggers a slew of good fortune. The metronomic release of exclusive, tantalizing titles draws gamers to buy the console, which in turn increases sales. Then the console achieves critical mass among hardcore fans, and other companies scramble to adapt their most popular titles for Nintendo’s system. Third-party games from major and independent publishers attract new console buyers. Marketers seeking licenses—for apparel, cereal, children’s toothpaste—rush in, desperate to capitalize on the delirium. The resulting surge of revenue pumps up Nintendo’s profits and replenishes its R&D coffers to start the process anew.

  • How Fortnite Captured Teens’ Hearts and Minds
    Fortnite is really big now, but I haven’t played it yet. So it is useful to see what the game is about, why there is so much hype, and how teens are actually playing it.

    He saw on his find-your-friends bar that a bunch of schoolmates were playing, so he FaceTimed one who goes by ism64. They teamed up and hit Lucky Landing. Gizzard Lizard wore an earbud under a set of earphones, so that he could talk with ism64 while listening for the sound of approaching enemies. From a distance, it appeared that he was talking to himself: “Let’s just build. Watch out, you’re gonna be trapped under my ramp. I’m hitting this John Wick. Oh my God, he just pumped me. Come revive me. Build around me and come revive me. Wait, can I have that chug jug? Thank you.”

    I’d been struck, watching Gizzard Lizard’s games for a few days, by how the spirit of collaboration, amid the urgency of mission and threat, seemed to bring out something approaching gentleness. He and his friends did favors for one another, watched one another’s backs, offered encouragement. This was something that I hadn’t seen much of, say, down at the rink. One could argue that the old arcade, with the ever-present threat of bullying and harassment and the challenge of claiming dibs, exposed a kid to the world—it’s character-building!—but there was something to be said for such a refuge, even if it did involve assault rifles and grenades.

  • The man who has eaten at more than 7,300 Chinese restaurants, but can’t use chopsticks and doesn’t care for food
    Well I’m not one the chastise another for OCD data tracking, but I guess it is a bit weird to visit thousands of Chinese restaurants without knowing Chinese. The actual number of restaurants (maybe 120 a year) and not going to one more than once* is not too crazy.

    “In 1978, people in LA started talking about this great new Hong Kong-style restaurant that had opened up in San Francisco,” Chan says. “It was called Kam Lok. People from LA would fly up there just to eat. My wife and I flew up in the morning, ate there for lunch, ate there for dinner, then flew back in the evening. It was so much better than anything we’d had here.”

    Two years later, Chan made his first trip to Hong Kong.

    “We saw all these restaurants selling seafood. It was something we’d never seen before,” he says. “Then, we came back to LA and, six months later, all of these seafood places started opening up. Within two or three years in LA’s China­town, San Francisco’s Chinatown, New York’s Chinatown, every new Chinese restaurant had seafood, or ocean, or something like that in its name.”

  • A Company Built on a Bluff
    I thought I had read another article about the history of Vice but I can’t find it now. This one gets into more details about how it’s essentially a company of scams, which a lot of reputable companies have invested money into. Unfortunately, they’re not delivering on that optimism.

    According to multiple employees who worked at Vice at the time, Smith went to the architecture firm across the hall from Vice’s Williamsburg office and asked how much it would cost to get them to move out ASAP. Vice’s 50 employees then worked around the clock for several days setting up the new space to look like it had been Vice’s all along. Vice constructed a glass-enclosed conference room to host the Intel meeting, and late one night, an employee answered a buzz at the door to find a plumber who’d come to install a fancy Japanese toilet.

    On the morning of the Intel meeting, Vice employees were instructed to get to the office early, to bring friends with laptops to circulate in and out of the new space, and to “be yourselves, but 40 percent less yourselves,” which meant looking like the hip 20-somethings they were but in a way that wouldn’t scare off a marketing executive. A few employees put on a photo shoot in a ground-floor studio as the Intel executives walked by. “Shane’s strategy was, ‘I’m not gonna tell them we own the studio, but I’m not gonna tell them we don’t,’ ” one former employee says. That night, Smith took the marketers to dinner, then to a bar where Vice employees had been told to assemble for a party. When Smith arrived, just ahead of the Intel employees, he walked up behind multiple Vice employees and whispered into their ears, “Dance.”


  • ‘I was a teacher for 17 years, but I couldn’t read or write’
    What’s it like to not know how to read? And to live the lie for most of your life? While becoming a professional in a field that requires reading? That’s an interesting story and this article shares the highlights from it.

    In one exam the professor put four questions on the board. I was sitting at the back of the room, near the window, behind the older students.

    I had my blue book and I painstakingly copied the four questions off the board. I didn’t know what those questions said.

    I had arranged for a friend of mine to be outside the window. He was probably the smartest kid in school, but he was also shy and he’d asked me to fix him up with a girl by the name of Mary who he wanted to go to the spring formal dance with.

    I passed my blue book out the window to him and he answered the questions for me.

    I had another blue exam book underneath my shirt and I took it out and pretended I was writing in it.

    I was praying that my friend was going to be able to get my book back to me and that he was going to get the right answers.

  • The Man Who Cracked the Lottery
    This story is about someone who was able to cheat the lottery system, but did so in a semi-intelligent manner to hide his tracks for a number of years.

    Three months after the winning ticket was announced, the lottery issued another public reminder. Another followed at six months and again at nine months, each time warning that winners had one year to claim their money. “I was convinced it would never be claimed,” says Mary Neubauer, the Iowa Lottery’s vice president of external relations. Since 1999, she had dealt with around 200 people who had won more than $1 million; she’d never seen a winning million-dollar ticket go unclaimed. “And then comes Nov. 9, 2011.”

    A man named Philip Johnston, a lawyer from Quebec, called the Iowa Lottery and gave Neubauer the correct 15-digit serial number on the winning Hot Lotto ticket. Neubauer asked his age — in his 60s, he said — and what he was wearing when he purchased the ticket. His description, a sports coat and gray flannel dress pants, did not match the QuikTrip video. Then, in a subsequent call, the man admitted he had “fibbed”; he said he was helping a client claim the ticket so the client wouldn’t be identified.

    This was against the Iowa Lottery rules, which require the identities of winners to be public. Johnston floated the possibility of withdrawing his claim. Neubauer was suspicious: The winner’s anonymity was worth $16.5 million?

  • The Promise of Vaping and the Rise of Juul
    A fascinating look at the teen sub-culture of vaping, especially the brand Juul. Since I’m too old, I guess I will only find out about this stuff by reading it second hand.

    I talked to a sixteen-year-old girl in Westchester County, whom I’ll call Leslie, to keep her from narcing on her classmates. Juuls caught on at her school last summer, she said. Upperclassmen bought them, underclassmen tried them at parties, and suddenly people were Juuling in the cafeteria, charging Juuls on their laptops, and filling their Instagram and Snapchat feeds with Juuling videos and GIFs. “Dealers will announce on Snapchat that they’ve bought a hundred of them, and they’ll write the price, the date, and the meeting place for kids to show up with cash,” Leslie said. She described her classmates Juuling in locker rooms, and on the trail behind the school—where people also drink and smoke weed—and in the quad, if they’re ballsy. “But the biggest spots are the bathrooms,” she said. “There are so many people Juuling sometimes that all the varieties of flavors just get morphed into one big vape. Some days I’m just, like, why do you need to do this at 11 A.M.?”

  • Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry
    This article starts by talking about people who need to rent family, but it really touches upon how people form connections.

    Ishii says that, two or three times a year, he stages entire fake weddings. The cost is around five million yen (around forty-seven thousand dollars). In some cases, the bride invites real co-workers, friends, and family members. In others, everyone is an actor except the bride and her parents. The rental best man gives a speech, often bringing the rental guests to tears. When Ishii plays the groom, he experiences complicated emotions. A fake wedding, he says, is just as much work to organize as a real one, and he and the client plan together for months. Invariably, Ishii says, “I start to fall for her.” When it comes to the kiss, some brides prefer to fake it—they touch cheeks so it looks like they’re kissing—but others opt for the real thing. Ishii tries to pretend he’s acting in a movie, but often, he says, “I feel like I’m really getting married to this woman.”

  • How Anna Delvey Tricked New York
    The story about Anna Delvey’s con, which is more fascinating than your average con because it seemed to affect many well placed and rich individuals in New York. Strangely, her downfall was not that she got too greedy (e.g., wanting money), but because she became too aspirational building her foundation (which might have been a proxy to greed).

    If Aby Rosen, the son of Holocaust survivors, could come to New York and fill skyscrapers full of art, if the Kardashians could build a billion-dollar empire out of literally nothing, if a movie star like Dakota Johnson could sculpt her ass so that it becomes the anchor of a major franchise, why couldn’t Anna Delvey? During the course of my reporting, people kept asking: Why this girl? She wasn’t superhot, they pointed out, or super-charming; she wasn’t even very nice. How did she manage to convince an enormous amount of cool, successful people that she was something she clearly was not?


  • San Francisco’s Big Seismic Gamble
    The West Coast and the Big One is another one of my pet interests. Here’s another article on some information about how SF is (not) being prepared.

    Right now the code says a structure must be engineered to have a 90 percent chance of avoiding total collapse. But many experts believe that is not enough.

    “Ten percent of buildings will collapse,” said Lucy Jones, the former leader of natural hazards research at the United States Geological Survey who is leading a campaign to make building codes in California stronger. “I don’t understand why that’s acceptable.”

    The code also does not specify that a building be fit for occupancy after an earthquake. Many buildings might not collapse completely, but they could be damaged beyond repair. The interior walls, the plumbing, elevators — all could be wrecked or damaged.

    “When I tell people what the current building code gives them most people are shocked,” Dr. Jones said. “Enough buildings will be so badly damaged that people are going to find it too hard to live in L.A. or San Francisco.”

  • The Chinese Workers Who Assemble Designer Bags in Tuscany
    In order to slap a “Made In Italy” label on their bags, fashion houses are employing Chinese people in Italy to assemble their bags. Fortunately, the Chinese are getting rich from it.

    Just outside the city walls, in Prato’s Chinatown, well-to-do Chinese families were carrying their own wrapped parcels of sweets: mashed-taro buns, red-bean cakes. Suburbanites, coming into town to see relatives, drove BMWs, Audis, and Mercedeses. (In a telling remark, more than one Italian insisted to me that no Chinese person would be caught in a Fiat Panda, one of the Italian company’s most modest cars.) According to a 2015 study by a regional economic agency, Chinese residents contribute more than seven hundred million euros to Prato’s provincial economy, about eleven per cent of its total.

  • The Young and the Reckless
    Headline story in Wired about how a U of T student and a bunch of US co-conspirators operated in the XBox hacking scene.

    By 2009 the pair was using PartnerNet not only to play their modded versions of Halo 3 but also to swipe unreleased software that was still being tested. There was one Halo 3 map that Pokora snapped a picture of and then shared too liberally with friends; the screenshot wound up getting passed around among Halo fans. When Pokora and Clark next returned to PartnerNet to play Halo 3, they encountered a message on the game’s main screen that Bungie engineers had expressly left for them: “Winners Don’t Break Into PartnerNet.”

  • How to get rich quick in Silicon Valley
    A satirical article about the culture in Silicon Valley. I guess this would be more funny and illuminating if I wasn’t as close to the culture.

    Indeed, to overhear the baby-faced billionaire wannabes exchanging boastful inanities in public could be enraging. Their inevitable first question was: “What’s your space?” Not “How’s it going?” Not “Where are you from?” But: “What’s your space?”

    This was perhaps the most insufferable bit of tech jargon I heard. “What’s your space?” meant “What does your company do?” This was not quite the same as asking: “What do you do for a living?” because one’s company may well produce no living at all. A “space” had an aspirational quality a day job never would. If you were a writer, you would never say “I’m a writer”. You would say “I’m in the content space”, or, if you were more ambitious, “I’m in the media space”. But if you were really ambitious you would know that “media” was out and “platforms” were in, and that the measure – excuse me, the “metric” – that investors used to judge platform companies was attention, because this ephemeral thing, attention, could be sold to advertisers for cash. So if someone asked “What’s your space?” and you had a deeply unfashionable job like, say, writer, it behooved you to say “I deliver eyeballs like a fucking ninja”.

  • Body Con Job
    This is one of those articles that wouldn’t have made sense 3 years ago but now, seems to be quite plausible and true. It takes about an Instagram influencer who has a million followers, but is actually fake. She’s AI – not her commentary, but her looks. As in, she’s computer generated. Yet people really follow her, and not just for novelty’s sake. Then she got into a war with another AI and, people kept showing loyalty to her. I’m not quite sure whether this article is about AI being human or AI being accepted.

    When Miquela first appeared on Instagram two years ago, her features were less idealized. Her skin was pale, her hair less styled. Now she looks like every other Instagram influencer. She’ll rest her unsmiling face in her hands to convey nonchalance, or look away from the camera as though she’s been caught in the act. The effect is twisted: Miquela seems more real by mimicking the body language that renders models less so.


  • The Improbable Origins of Powerpoint
    Jump back many years and learn how Powerpoint started.

    In April 1987, Forethought introduced its new presentation program to the market very much as it had been conceived, but with a different name. Presenter was now PowerPoint 1.0—there are conflicting accounts of the name change—and it was a proverbial overnight success with Macintosh users. In the first month, Forethought booked $1 million in sales of PowerPoint, at a net profit of $400,000, which was about what the company had spent developing it. And just over three months after PowerPoint’s introduction, Microsoft purchased Forethought outright for $14 million in cash.

  • Don’t worry, self-driving cars are likely to be better at ethics than we are
    This article argues that the philosophical Trolley problem is just a theoretical argument, and that the real life implementation won’t need someone to code a rule about which path to take. Wishful or prescient thinking? Who knows.

    Say you’re standing there, watching the trolley car approach, pondering whether to throw the switch and divert it (and kill someone). Then you notice, peeking out from underneath a nearby pile of junk, an old, discarded flagpole, and realize you could put it on the track to slow or stop the trolley car entirely before it kills anyone. Your perceptiveness has reframed the decision at hand; you’re now answering a different moral question, weighing different options.

    In philosophy class, that kind of thing is ruled out. The trolley problem contains no such details to notice. The situation is transparent; we know exactly what the choices are and what the consequences of our decisions will be.

  • Worst Roommate Ever
    It is probably hyperbole but this story about a horrible & manipulative roommate is just that, an interesting story.

    Often, the first signs of trouble were easy to downplay: In many cases, roommates came home to find a chandelier removed, a bookshelf filled with unfamiliar books, a couch or potted plant shifted slightly this way or that. These incursions, almost imperceptible, seemed calculated to unsettle. Suspecting Bachman was entering her room while she was at work, Acevedo once placed an empty wine bottle behind her bedroom door, so anyone going in would knock it over; when she returned, she opened the door without thinking and then braced herself, but the bottle did not fall, having been moved several inches away.

  • Welcome to Powder Mountain – a utopian club for the millennial elite
    Not sure if this is a nouveau cult, elitist clique, scam or a real movement. Some of it reads as if it came out from the Onion though.

    He tells me he’s open to the suggestion that his community is elitist – “these criticisms, there’s a truth to them” – and insists that he strives to make authentic connections with people from all walks of life. For example, he says, earlier in the day he met a worker at the ski resort who was taking guests on a tour. “I literally could have said, ‘All right, have an awesome tour,’ and instead I was like, ‘So, you’re here all year?’ And he goes, ‘No, I’m actually from New Orleans.’ And I’m like, ‘Really?’” Bisnow says he behaves the same way with servers in restaurants. “[When] you start to engage with these people you realise the humanity in everyone and how unbelievable they are.” Then he explains how he always sits in the front seat of Uber taxis, talking to dozens of drivers a week, hearing “the most remarkable stories”. He ends up hanging out “with a significant number” of his drivers. I ask how many Uber drivers he’s invited to Summit. He doesn’t say, but instead tells me an anecdote about a chef he invited to Summit after meeting him “at this dilapidated castle in England”.

  • Why Arsenal Star Per Mertesacker Is Happy to Leave Football
    A look at the emotional toil of a professional sports star. This is stuff that they never show as part of the “player story”.

    Then there’s the diarrhea he gets on the mornings of matches — looking back, he says it happened on more than 500 days of his life. Mertesacker looks down at his long fingers as he goes through the list. “I have to go to the bathroom right after getting up, right after breakfast, again after lunch and again at the stadium.” Everything he eats just passes right on through.

    For a while, all his body could handle was noodles with a bit of olive oil. He couldn’t eat any later than four hours before a game to ensure that his stomach was guaranteed to be totally empty when the nausea started. “As if everything that then happened, symbolically speaking, just made me want to puke.”


  • The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates
    We throw out a lot of medicine and it always feels like a waste. Not sure this article is conclusive though, even if the government is doing it (not throwing stuff out)

    Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

  • Inside the All-Consuming World of Paw Patrol
    Wow, Paw Patrol has hit the big time! I’m blogging about it. I thought this article would be more in depth about the business around it, but it does have some interesting information.

    In 2013, designers at Spin Master came up with a few prototype toys—one of them was a house that could transform into a truck—and took them to various preschool-TV-show creators. It was Bob the Builder’s Keith Chapman who came up with the concept for Paw Patrol. The development of original characters is much more lucrative than the licensing of other companies’ ideas. After Chapman conceived of the Paw Patrol franchise, Spin Master tapped Toronto animators at Guru Studio to produce it. By August 2013, it was on TVO in Canada and Nickelodeon in the US. I asked Ronnen Harary, Spin Master co-founder and co-CEO, which came first when they were conceiving new episodes: merchandise or storylines. He said, “Producing toys for kids is an art form, and writing and animating TV shows for kids is an art form. We’ve been able to mix those two forms together. It’s a very difficult thing to do because they’re different disciplines, but by mixing them together, you can have a potentially richer TV show.”

  • Parking for Gold
    This article reminds me of another farcical article I had read recently (although I guess it wasn’t in my pocket queue) about the Microsoft Office olympics. But this one is for valets. Because I’m less skilled a valet-ing, I don’t connect with it as much (or get all of the inside jokes); but it doesn’t make it sound less crazy.

    Next up was Precision Parking, the photogenic centerpiece of the games. Valets must sprint to a car—in this case, a black Toyota Camry—leap inside, and roar out of the parking spot. There is no speed limit. Athletes then weave through 10 orange cones, park the car, put it in reverse, and do the whole thing all over again, backwards. Before the event began, there was a small controversy: Most valets had practiced on six cones, they said, not 10. Some walked the course in open disbelief, as if faced with driving the Nürburgring.

  • Deliverance From 27,000 Feet
    Another article about dying on Mount Everest. No matter how many stories I read, I’m still amazed at the people who attempt such a feat.

    “I cannot stop thinking about the money spent to retrieve his body,” Debasish Ghosh said. “If we had spent the money earlier, if we had helped Goutam when he was alive, so that he could find a better agency, or buy more oxygen or make better preparations, could he have survived? Would he be home now, alive? Did we contribute to his death because we didn’t help him until now?”

  • The Last of the Iron Lungs
    Interesting short article about Iron Lungs, which were mostly used to help Polio victims in the 1950s. There’s still 3 in operation in the US but no company still supports them.

    Some polio survivors were only partially impaired or got better. For instance, Mia Farrow only had to spend eight months in an iron lung when she was nine, before going on to become a famous actress and polio advocate. And golfer Jack Nicklaus had symptoms for two weeks as a child, but as an adult only had sore joints.

    But many polio victims have breathing difficulties for the rest of their lives, or have issues later in life when overworked neurons burn out, a condition called post-polio syndrome. “I breathe 20 percent of what you breathe with every breath,” Lillard explained to me. “You still have the neurons that work the muscles that you breathe with.”


  • What Came Before the Big Bang?
    The two things that I’m always curious about space/time is whether we live in a simulation, and what happened before the Big Bang. Here are 3 ideas on the latter.

    A second major hypothesis is that the universe, and time, did not exist before the Big Bang. The universe materialized literally out of nothing, at a tiny but finite size, and expanded thereafter. There were no moments before the moment of smallest size because there was no “before.” Likewise, there was no “creation” of the universe, since that concept implies action in time. Even to say that the universe “materialized” is somewhat misleading. As Hawking describes it, the universe “would be neither created nor destroyed. It would just BE.” Such notions as existence and being in the absence of time are not fathomable within our limited human experience. We don’t even have language to describe them. Nearly every sentence we utter has some notion of “before” and “after.”

  • How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food
    Junk food is not all bad. If it wasn’t for junk food, a lot of people in Brazil would be starving as they would not be able to buy enough food to sustain themselves. Yet is surviving on junk food any better?

    Ms. de Vasconcellos has diabetes and high blood pressure. Her 17-year-old daughter, who weighs more than 250 pounds, has hypertension and polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder strongly linked to obesity. Many other relatives have one or more ailments often associated with poor diets: her mother and two sisters (diabetes and hypertension), and her husband (hypertension.) Her father died three years ago after losing his feet to gangrene, a complication of diabetes.

    “Every time I go to the public health clinic, the line for diabetics is out the door,” she said. “You’d be hard pressed to find a family here that doesn’t have it.”

  • The Untold Story of Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination
    The real life assassination of a North Korean leader is almost unbelievable (as with many things North Korea), but someone has done a lot of leg work to try and get a detailed story of what happened.

    The liquid that Siti rubbed on Jong-nam’s face was likely not true VX. Experts have suggested that a modified version of normal VX—VX2—was employed instead. As Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT who holds two degrees in chemical engineering, explained to me, “VX2 is made by dividing VX into two nonreactive compounds. What the women were likely doing was creating active VX on Jong-nam’s face by each delivering their ingredient.”

    This complicated method of poisoning Jong-nam would have had several advantages. First, the toxin would have been safe until activated. Even then, VX2 is not very volatile compared with other chemical weapons, meaning it was less likely to affect bystanders or first responders. If VX2 was employed, it’s unlikely Siti would have been affected, as striking first she never would have been exposed to the second reactant.

  • Valve is not your friend, and Steam is not healthy for gaming
    I never liked Steam as a store or a service. The software just seemed clunky and unnecessary and I’m not even a gamer so I can imagine what people who use it every day would think. This story is biased as the author has a big beef with it, but it also lists out a bunch of things wrong with the service

    Valve themselves eagerly trumpeted that they had paid more than $57 million to Steam Workshop creators over four years — an enormously impressive figure until you realize that it’s only 25 percent of the sale price, which means Valve just made $171 million profit from … setting up an online form where you can submit finished 3D models.

  • Where are all the aliens?
    This article talks about the Fermi paradox (if there are so many stars, why can’t we find other intelligent species?) and lists a bunch of reasons why it may exist. It’s a primer article on the paradox and I felt I’ve read it somewhere else before, but it’s still interesting.

    Possibility 5) There’s only one instance of higher-intelligent life—a “superpredator” civilization (like humans are here on Earth)—who is far more advanced than everyone else and keeps it that way by exterminating any intelligent civilization once they get past a certain level. This would suck. The way it might work is that it’s an inefficient use of resources to exterminate all emerging intelligences, maybe because most die out on their own. But past a certain point, the super beings make their move—because to them, an emerging intelligent species becomes like a virus as it starts to grow and spread. This theory suggests that whoever was the first in the galaxy to reach intelligence won, and now no one else has a chance. This would explain the lack of activity out there because it would keep the number of super-intelligent civilizations to just one.


  • The highly unusual company behind Sriracha, the world’s coolest hot sauce

    Reading this story, it either means that Sriracha is really secretive about its numbers, or maybe it just doesn’t keep track so they can’t tell you!

    Most commercially distributed hot sauces are made with dried chilies to make it easier to harvest, process and bottle the product at scale. McIlhenny, the maker of Tabasco, for example, buys its chilies from producers around the globe. But Sriracha is—and always always has been—made with fresh chilies. It’s what separates it from the competition, says Tran.

  • My Family’s Slave
    The author of this article had a domestic slave in their household as they were growing up, and this was in the 20th century. He talks about how and why she stayed with the family until she died.

    We couldn’t identify a parallel anywhere except in slave characters on TV and in the movies. I remember watching a Western called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. John Wayne plays Tom Doniphon, a gunslinging rancher who barks orders at his servant, Pompey, whom he calls his “boy.” Pick him up, Pompey. Pompey, go find the doctor. Get on back to work, Pompey! Docile and obedient, Pompey calls his master “Mistah Tom.” They have a complex relationship. Tom forbids Pompey from attending school but opens the way for Pompey to drink in a whites-only saloon. Near the end, Pompey saves his master from a fire. It’s clear Pompey both fears and loves Tom, and he mourns when Tom dies. All of this is peripheral to the main story of Tom’s showdown with bad guy Liberty Valance, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Pompey. I remember thinking: Lola is Pompey, Pompey is Lola.

  • In Sync We Trust: Pop Music’s History of Lip-Syncing (and Lying About It)
    A look at the history and slow acceptance of lip syncing. I don’t think you can detail like this in a Wikipedia article so it’s nice to have a historical report collected. Especially now that lip syncing is not that big of a deal and people aren’t worried too much about it.

    An even more egregious example of this kind of pop-music bait-and-switch came via the Italian dance act Black Box, which released an album, Dreamland, in 1990 that was almost entirely sung by a woman named Martha Wash and with no credit to her. Instead, a model named Katrin Quinol lip-synced Wash’s vocals in videos for the group’s global hits “Everybody, Everybody,” “Strike It Up,” and “I Don’t Know Anybody Else,” and appeared on the covers of Black Box’s records. What’s galling about this particular case is Wash was already well known among dance-music fans—she was one half of the Weather Girls, whose 1982 single “It’s Raining Men” was a hit that time made an anthem, and before that she was known for her work with legendary disco diva Sylvester. Martha Wash’s soprano is as singular as it is titanic and it’s amazing that anyone ever tried to pretend that it belonged to someone else after it had already fallen on the listening public’s ears.

  • Will China Save the American Economy?
    China wants to move money out of their country and they are doing so by investing in America. Some are investing money into companies, but this article suggests that Chinese companies building/repurposing manufacturing plants in the US will save the American economy. I don’t see what or how Chinese management can bring to manufacturing jobs in American, when they left the US for a reason (high cost of labour, low efficiency, etc).

    In 2004, factory workers in China made $4.35 an hour, compared to $17.54 that the average factory worker made in the U.S., according to the Boston Consulting Group.

    But labor expenses are rising in China. According to the Chinese Business Climate Survey, put out by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the consulting firm Bain & Company, businesses there cite rising labor costs as their top problem. That’s in part because worker organizations are gaining strength, and strikes and labor disputes are becoming more common. Today, Chinese manufacturing wages adjusted for productivity are $12.47 an hour, compared to $22.32 in the United States, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

  • Exposed: How maulvis take money for one-night stand with divorced women trying to save marriage

    Under Islam law, it’s not possible to remarry your original husband unless you marry someone else. So clerics have taken it upon themselves to do one-night marriages in order to get around this rule.

    At Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, the team met Zubair Qasmi, a qualified maulana married with two wives. He nominated himself up for a third at the prospect of nikah halala, in exchange for money.

    “I spend many nights out. It’s much easier to manage this with two (wives). One would think I am with the second. And the second would think I am with the other. It’s not at all difficult with two (wives),” he bragged.


  • At Tampa Bay farm-to-table restaurants, you’re being fed fiction
    A lot of restaurants now use ingredients that are “locally sourced” or “from the farm”, but how true is that really? You usually just trust whatever is on the menu, but this food critic actually followed through and did some investigating. Not surprisingly, a lot of places lie.

    Dorsey said he buys pork from a small Tallahassee farm through food supplier Master Purveyors. But Master Purveyors said it doesn’t sell pork from Tallahassee. Dorsey said he uses quail from Magnolia Farms in Lake City. Master Purveyors said the quail is from Wyoming. Dorsey said he buys dairy from Dakin Dairy Farms in Myakka through Weyand Food Distributors. Weyand said it doesn’t distribute Dakin. Dorsey said he gets local produce from Suncoast Food Alliance and Local Roots. Both said they have not sold to The Mill. He named three seafood suppliers. Two checked out, but a third, Whitney and Son, said they had not sold to The Mill yet. They hope to in the future.

  • The Weird Economics Of Ikea
    This article talks about how Ikea handles its pricing for some of its most popular items, including two that I had around when I was a child – the lack table and the poang which I used as “computer chair” since it was more comfortable than a swivel chair.

    Indeed, the products have evolved. In 1992, part of the Poäng was changed from steel to wood, allowing the chair to ship more densely and efficiently in the company’s flat packs. (“Shipping air is very expensive,” Marston said.) And the Lack table was changed from solid wood to a honeycomb “board on frame” construction, decreasing production costs and increasing shipping efficiency. Baxter theorizes, though, that if a product is finicky — requiring design in Sweden, manufacture in China and intricate pieces from Switzerland, say — it may eventually be abandoned.

  • ‘I thought I was smarter than almost everybody’: my double life as a KGB agent
    A real life story from a former KGB spy where he discusses a bit about his training to become a spy. There are also some bits about being undercover, but frankly, that is pretty boring!

    Barsky, as he now was, moved to New York, carrying his new birth certificate. With that, he got a membership card at the Natural History Museum. And, with that, he got a library card and then a driver’s licence. He covered his hands and face with grime and did not wash for days before applying for a social security card; he had always worked as a farmhand, he told them, and never needed one. It worked.

  • ‘London Bridge is down’: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death
    This is a long article that serves as proof that various agencies within the UK have thought about and planned for the Queen’s inevitable death. Like much of the monarchy, this future event will be micromanaged to handle the press and reaction.

    The first plans for London Bridge date back to the 1960s, before being refined in detail at the turn of the century. Since then, there have been meetings two or three times a year for the various actors involved (around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks) in Church House, Westminster, the Palace, or elsewhere in Whitehall. Participants described them to me as deeply civil and methodical. “Everyone around the world is looking to us to do this again perfectly,” said one, “and we will.” Plans are updated and old versions are destroyed. Arcane and highly specific knowledge is shared. It takes 28 minutes at a slow march from the doors of St James’s to the entrance of Westminster Hall. The coffin must have a false lid, to hold the crown jewels, with a rim at least three inches high.

  • How Lego Became The Apple Of Toys
    This article raises the parallel that Lego is the Apple of toys because they are looking for innovative ways to get their products in the hands of children. I don’t really buy it though, particular because their goal is “that Lego continue to create innovative play experiences and reach more children every year”. Except then they go to great lengths to talk about how their products are appealing to adults.

    Eight years ago, a Chicago architect named Adam Reed Tucker, who had been building impressive Lego models of iconic buildings, reached out to Lego, suggesting that the company might be interested in making official kits similar to his homemade creations. “Doing anything that wasn’t for the target group, which was boys between, say, 5 and 11, used to be almost a complete no-go,” says David Gram, Future Lab’s head of marketing and business development. But a free-thinking Norwegian Lego exec named Paal Smith-Meyer—Holm admiringly describes him as “a true rebel”—saw value in AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) and came up with a stealthy, shoestring plan to prove their worth to the company. It came in the form of a counteroffer—which would help usher in the current era of innovation at Lego.


  • Unexpected Consequences of Self Driving Cars
    An interesting post about the social changes that self driving cars may bring about. No, not the trolley problem, but other interesting ways that society might change when we have the convenience of automated drivers for our cars.

    People will jump out of their car at a Starbucks to run in and pick up their order knowingly leaving it not in a legal parking spot, perhaps blocking others, but knowing that it will take care of getting out of the way if some other car needs to move or get by. That will be fine in the case there is no such need, but in the case of need it will slow everything down just a little. And perhaps the owner will be able to set the tolerance on how uncomfortable things have to get before the car moves. Expect to see lots of annoyed people. And before long grocery store parking lots, especially in a storm, will just be a sea of cars improperly parked waiting for their owners.

  • It’s a living – Circus is a traveling city with its own economy
    A quick look at what it’s like living in a travelling circus, and what it brings to each town that it visits.

    Gibson describes the economic impact on Chattanooga: 40 of the 120 circus employees stay at a local hotel; 24 travel in RVs that are parked in a nearby field.

    Each day, truckloads of hay and produce are hauled to McKenzie Arena to feed the animals. The circus vet banned peanuts from the elephants’ diet for being too fatty but allows them an occasional loaf of unsliced bread or some marshmallows for treats. On performance days, a local caterer feeds the human employees, or they buy their meals in restaurants or grocery stores.

  • Queens of the Stoned Age
    An interesting take at selling weed in NYC where the runners are models. This story is almost unbelievable and no doubt has some hyperbole built in (I could see it happening at a small scale) so I would chalk it up as interesting fiction.

    The Green Angels average around 150 orders a day, which is about a fourth of what the busiest services handle. When a customer texts, it goes to one of the cell phones on the table in the living room. There’s a hierarchy: The phones with the pink covers are the lowest; they contain the numbers of the flakes, cheapskates, or people who live in Bed-Stuy. The purple phones contain the good, solid customers. Blue is for the VIPs. There are over a thousand customers on Honey’s master list.

    To place an order, a customer is supposed to text “Can we hang out?” and a runner is sent to his apartment. No calling, no other codes or requests. Delivery is guaranteed within an hour and a half. If the customer isn’t home, he gets a strike. Three strikes and he’s 86’d. If he yells at the runner, he’s 86’d immediately.

  • I Was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind.
    This article was piqued my interest because I was a parent so I wanted to understand why some women didn’t want to have children. It didn’t delve too deeply into that but I think it was written well so I was able to empathize with the parenting aspect of it.

    Perhaps it says something about my pre-baby life that a lot of my metaphors for new motherhood were drug-related. Those endless hours we spent in bed, alternately nursing, dozing, and staring, amazed, at each other, reminded me of the time I’d smoked opium in Thailand. (And the other time I’d smoked opium in Laos.) Lugging my son around on errands brought to mind the first few times I got stoned as a teenager, when doing normal things like going to school or the drugstore became complicated, strange, and full of misadventure. The oxytocin felt like MDMA.

    Why, I kept thinking, hadn’t anyone told me how great this was? It was a stupid thing to think, because in fact people tell you that all the time. In general, though, the way people describe having a baby is much like the way they describe marriage — as a sacrifice that’s worth it, as a rewarding challenge, as a step toward growing up. Nobody had told me it would be fun.

  • How the Internet Gave Mail-Order Brides the Power
    This is another article that is more interesting for the people story, rather than the technology of what the Internet has done. When I think of mail-order brides, I think of Russia, but this one is focused on Philipines. An interesting read, but I had hoped for more stories.

    Hans’s experience was far from unusual — in fact, the shift between online and offline power is one of the major dynamics at play in modern dating among foreigners and Filipinas. Before a man comes to the Philippines, the woman has the advantage, because only a fraction of Filipina women have the technological capability and English knowledge to meet men online. Video chat may seem like a rudimentary requirement, but it’s not trivial to set it up in remote parts of the Philippines, as women either have to pay for expensive computers or smartphones with fast internet connections and no bandwidth restrictions, or go to internet cafes, which are also cost-prohibitive. But the tables turn once the foreigner arrives in the country. The cost of technology is no longer an obstacle, and he suddenly has many more eligible women vying for his attention.


  • Peter Thiel, Trump’s Tech Pal, Explains Himself
    Much of the tech industry is confused why Peter Thiel would back Trump. Here, he gives some concise (although not entirely descriptive) answers to some common questions. His responses are almost the antithesis of Trump in terms of being dramatic.

    He recalls that he went through a lot of “meta” debates about Mr. Trump in Silicon Valley. “One of my good friends said, ‘Peter, do you realize how crazy this is, how everybody thinks this is crazy?’ I was like: ‘Well, why am I wrong? What’s substantively wrong with this?’ And it all got referred back to ‘Everybody thinks Trump’s really crazy.’ So it’s like there’s a shortcut, which is: ‘I don’t need to explain it. It’s good enough that everybody thinks something. If everybody thinks this is crazy, I don’t even have to explain to you why it’s crazy. You should just change your mind.’”

  • India’s ‘Phone Romeos’ Look for Ms. Right via Wrong Numbers
    Interesting story about how India doesn’t use Tindr and that sort, but just dial (or hold on to) wrong numbers to try and meet potential mates.

    Umakanti Padhan, a moon-faced 16-year-old garment factory worker, tried to call her sister-in-law. She misdialed and found herself accidentally conversing with Bulu, a railway worker eight years her senior.

    She hung up, alarmed. At home, beginning at puberty, she had been prohibited from speaking with any adult man, including her brothers and cousins.

    Ten minutes later, Bulu called back and told her that he liked the sound of her voice. “When I hear your voice, it feels like someone of my own,” he said. “I feel like talking to you all the time.”

    So she agreed. Every night, she slipped out to the roof of her Bangalore workers’ hostel, where she shares a room with 11 other young women, and spoke to Bulu about mundane things: how their shifts went and what they had eaten that day.

    “He’s told me everything that ever happened to him from the time he was a kid,” she said. “I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but I trust him. I know he will not betray me.”

  • Would the Cavs Be Better off With Andrew Wiggins Over Kevin Love?
    This is my occasional dive into the world of basketball, with this particular article being of interest because the Raptors may play the Cavs in the playoffs, and Wiggins being a Canadian. Nothing startling in this – Cavs made a trade for Right Now vs Potential, but provides some background on the Cavs.

    Love was the guy in Minnesota, a post machine who could score and facilitate. Over the past three years, his primary role has been to space the floor, though he is occasionally force-fed post chances. He’s like a more talented Ryan Anderson — a better rebounder, interior scorer, and passer. Except, for the role Love plays and the money he gets paid (tied for 22nd most in the NBA), Cleveland could be getting more bang for its buck.

  • Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains
    The travel industry is cyclic and it looks like the advantage is back in the courts of brands instead of the aggregators. My own travel planning has started at hotel brands now too, although my flight planning hasn’t shifted yet.

    He’s right: The price control pendulum is swinging back toward the hoteliers. “It was really easy for the aggregators to gobble up all this business in the past because the hotels weren’t really paying any attention,” that West Coast CEO told me. But eventually, the aggregators cornered so much of the market that they jacked up their commissions high enough that everyone had to take notice. The CEO revealed that his hotels typically paid aggregators 20 percent commission—and in many cases even 30 percent.
    In past two or three years the hotel industry has been fighting the aggregators by offering deals that wiggle around the contracts they originally set with them. Let’s say, for example, your hotel chain has a set rate for a room. You enter in an agreement with an aggregator that says you won’t further discount the rate that is the “lowest price” a customer can find on the internet. But you can get around it by offering a potential guest an instant membership in your “loyalty” program. You can throw in additional “amenities” (parking, spa, and so on) that would normally cost extra and you would not be violating your agreements by undercutting the base price of the room. Tricky? You bet.

  • No, Trump isn’t the worst president ever
    While there is a lot of doom and gloom. Trump has a ways to go before becomeing the “worst president ever” (or even of the last century). Mostly the presidents in the 1800s and how they dealt with the pro-slave states made them horrible.

    In December 1860 — after the Electoral College affirmed Lincoln’s election — southern states started seceding. Belatedly, Buchanan briefly considered sending some reinforcements south, but he let his Secretary of War — John Floyd of Virginia — talk him out of it. A few days later, Floyd resigned to join his home state in secession and treason.

    Until he left office on March 4, 1861, Buchanan continued to appease the Rebels. In the end, he gave the Confederacy a four-month head start in the Civil War. He let the South seize federal forts, arsenals and naval vessels, which they soon used to wage war upon the very country he had solemnly sworn to protect.


  • The chilling stories behind Japan’s ‘evaporating people’
    I didn’t know about this, but now that I know, it’s not too surprising. There are certain people in Japan who, after suffering to much shame, ‘evaporate’. What that means is that they just disappear and go somewhere else (instead of committing suicide), leaving their family and friends to wonder where they are.

    Whatever shame motivates a Japanese citizen to vanish, it’s no less painful than the boomerang effect on their families — who, in turn, are so shamed by having a missing relative that they usually won’t report it to the police.

    Those families who do search turn to a private group called Support of Families of Missing People, which keeps all clients and details private. Its address is hard to find, and its headquarters consist of one small room with one desk and walls sooty with cigarette smoke.

    The organization is staffed with detectives — often with evaporations or suicides in their own family histories — who take on these cases pro bono. They average 300 cases a year, and their work is difficult: Unlike the United States, there is no national database for missing people in Japan. There are no documents or identifiers — such as our Social Security numbers — that can be used to track a person once they begin traveling within the country. It is against the law for police to access ATM transactions or financial records.

  • The Great A.I. Awakening
    The efficacy of Google Translate improved greatly since last November, and the reason behind it is that Google started using AI to power the translations. This article talks about why and how they did that, but most importantly, how the use of AI in this feed can affect AI in general

    In the 1980s, a robotics researcher at Carnegie Mellon pointed out that it was easy to get computers to do adult things but nearly impossible to get them to do things a 1-year-old could do, like hold a ball or identify a cat. By the 1990s, despite punishing advancements in computer chess, we still weren’t remotely close to artificial general intelligence.

    There has always been another vision for A.I. — a dissenting view — in which the computers would learn from the ground up (from data) rather than from the top down (from rules). This notion dates to the early 1940s, when it occurred to researchers that the best model for flexible automated intelligence was the brain itself. A brain, after all, is just a bunch of widgets, called neurons, that either pass along an electrical charge to their neighbors or don’t. What’s important are less the individual neurons themselves than the manifold connections among them. This structure, in its simplicity, has afforded the brain a wealth of adaptive advantages. The brain can operate in circumstances in which information is poor or missing; it can withstand significant damage without total loss of control; it can store a huge amount of knowledge in a very efficient way; it can isolate distinct patterns but retain the messiness necessary to handle ambiguity.

  • Meet the husbands who fly first class – while their wives travel in economy
    An almost incredulous article where various men and women justify why spouses travel in different classes of the plane.

    “We left home as a couple, checked in our luggage together and went hand-in-hand to departures. When we boarded the plane, we parted, saying: ‘I’ll see you when we get there.’ We had a lovely fortnight together in Barbados. John was especially attentive — perhaps he was a little guilty.”

    Since then, Michelle has preferred to travel as far away from her husband as possible. And John couldn’t be happier: “Do I feel guilty? Not at all! I get treated very well in business class. And if, one day, we can afford it then I’d love for the whole family to join me there.”

  • Silicon Valley’s Culture, Not Its Companies, Dominates in China
    This makes a lot of sense. Who wants to work a rigid and long schedule when you can just work flex hours?

    Last year, Facebook fired an enterprising Chinese employee who played to the unmet demand and charged one group of tourists $20 each to tour the campus and eat in the company’s cafeteria. Now, the only thing notable for tourists to see is its thumbs-up sign.

  • “Architecture saved my life”: Pablo Escobar’s son is a good architect now
    I like stories like these where there is a juxtaposition between lifestyles within two generations. In this case, the architect seems to be making a career for himself, although I don’t know how much of this is actually a puff piece.

    I believe that in a way my father was also an architect, he was very clever. He was just an architect for his own convenience. There was a Sunday my father took me to airplane fields and in the middle of the jungle, we were standing on the airfield and he asked me, “where is the airfield?” I couldn’t see it, and he said, “You are standing in it.” I couldn’t see it because I was looking at a house in the middle of the runway and there was no way the plane could land because it would crash against the house. He took a walkie-talkie and told one of his friends to move the house. It was on wheels. When the airplanes from the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) were searching with satellites looking for hideouts, they couldn’t find anything because there was a house in the middle of what was a possible airfield. The planes can use it—just move the house.


  • What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team
    What did Google find when it did research on finding the perfect that worked well together and delivered? I’ll save you the trouble of reading the article and quote the answer. However, I think creating teams that can foster these types of environment is difficult in practice.

    When Rozovsky and her Google colleagues encountered the concept of psychological safety in academic papers, it was as if everything suddenly fell into place. One engineer, for instance, had told researchers that his team leader was ‘‘direct and straightforward, which creates a safe space for you to take risks.’’ That team, researchers estimated, was among Google’s accomplished groups. By contrast, another engineer had told the researchers that his ‘‘team leader has poor emotional control.’’ He added: ‘‘He panics over small issues and keeps trying to grab control. I would hate to be driving with him being in the passenger seat, because he would keep trying to grab the steering wheel and crash the car.’’ That team, researchers presumed, did not perform well.

  • You won’t believe how Nike lost Steph
    There’s two stories in this article. How Nike lost Steph, and how Under Armor was able to convince Steph to come across to their world. Here’s a quote from the former:

    The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on,” the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”

    It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.

  • What it’s like when your Tinder date lives across the U.S.-Mexico border
    This is an interesting problem faced by people who live near borders. I guess Niagara Falls/Buffalo could have similar things. Although, in this example there are some cultural hangups as well.

    Like Daniel, Jesús can tell from a profile where a girl is from, but it isn’t about language. He says a Mexican girl typically has a profile pic that’s a selfie set in a restroom with bad resolution: “American girls, you see them doing something, like going outdoors or to the beach or going clubbing or having lunch with their friends.” The key difference: “In Mexico, it’s ‘How hot are you?’ In America it’s more ‘What do you do, what are your interests, what do you like?’”

  • World Heat Record Overturned–A Personal Account
    This is a bit esoteric, but I found this to be interesting and convincing. The world heat record used to be 58°C (136.4°F) measured on September 13, 1922 at Al Azizia, Libya. Now the record has returned back to Death Valley!

    In any case, Randy picked up the ball and created an ad-hoc evaluation committee for the World Meteorological Organization to evaluate the record for the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes (http://wmo.asu.edu/). After this positive response from Randy, I asked El Fadli if Libya officially accepted the Azizia figure. He responded that they did not. Since records like this are, to a degree, the provenance of national interest and El Fadli responded that Libya did not officially accept the colonial-era data from Azizia (measured by Italian authorities at that time in Tripolitania), this became the catalyst to launch an official WMO investigation.

  • ‘How Much Suffering Can You Take?’
    I’m never going to do a marathon, or a triathalon, or an Ironman competetion. But these people do five consecutive Ironmans within 5 days! Is that crazy? Their bodies think they are.

    Ultra-endurance athletes appear to have an increased rate of cardiac arrhythmias, or unusual heartbeats, most likely because of scarring of the heart known as fibrosis. But what, if any, danger that poses has been hard to pin down, Hoffman said.

    “Exactly why the fibrosis occurs probably isn’t understood, but seems to be an adaptive response to this sort of exercise,” he said.

    These ultratriathletes, however, tend not to dwell on the wear and tear of their bodies, at least once the race is done.

    “I know this is not good for my body,” said Jay Lonsway, a urologist who completed the quintuple. “But it is good for my soul.”


  • It’s Tough Being Over 40 in Silicon Valley
    I don’t think my situation will be exactly the same (since I don’t work “in” the Valley), but at some point I’ll end up with the same predicament. Everyone in tech will. So it’s interesting to hear stories about how older people are coping.

    At ProMatch, a state-funded job counseling and networking program in Sunnyvale, Calif., Robert Withers advises his mostly middle-aged or older clients to cut anything on their résumés that’s more than 10 years old, to use a professional photographer for their LinkedIn headshots, and to hang out in the parking lots of places where they’ll be interviewing to see what the people there wear.

  • Is there a ceiling on what our brains can understand?
    I’ve wondered about this before and am on the side of the fence that thinks there is a ceiling. The genesis for my ideas is the Star Trek TNG episode where they encounter a 2D civilization – they couldn’t comprehend 3D. Could we ever comprehend something in 4D (and I don’t mean some trivial cases).

    Say we could create a group of chimps that could live for a million years, and we have the best human teachers spend the whole million years trying to teach the chimps to understand quantum mechanics well enough that they’d be able to, on their own, build a working particle accelerator. It wouldn’t happen. Not possible. A chimp brain is simply not capable of learning something of that complexity, because there’s a ceiling on what a chimp brain can understand.

  • Why Do Tourists Visit Ancient Ruins Everywhere Except the United States?
    I approached this article with an for finding interesting things to visit in the US (i.e., via road trip instead of flying) but this article seems to only suggest 2 places: Cahokia in St Louis and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico

    Cahokia is mysterious to historians because North America did not have writing systems, and Cahokia’s population disappeared suddenly and mysteriously in the late 1300s. By the time Europeans found the site, even Native Americans knew little about it.

    What we do know is that a village was razed in 1050 to rebuild Cahokia on a grid, with a grand plaza and ceremonial structures built on two hundred huge, earthen pyramids. The population increased so rapidly—Dr. Pauketat writes that walking from the edge of Cahokia’s territory to the city center would have taken two days at its peak—that Cahokia must have drawn thousands of immigrants inspired by its religion, culture, or politics.

  • Research suggests being lazy is a sign of high intelligence
    I’ve been using the Pocket Recommendation feed to find articles and end up with a lot of short scientific articles that have an interesting hypothesis but not much substance in the article (almost not worth spending the time to blog as I’m more interested in long reads). Here’s one example, although it has this mind twister:

    Researchers suggested the findings could lend weight to the idea that non-thinkers get bored more easily, so need to fill their time with physical activity.

    But the downside to being brainer – and lazier – warned Mr McElroy was the negative impact of a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Why Do Famous People Get Paid $250,000 to Give a Speech?
    A look at the speaking circuit, how it works, and how much money people make. It’s not that great of a gig even if you’re super famous. The story of Up In The Air comes to mind.

    “We’ve essentially had every former president since Ronald Reagan,” says Chuck Carr, the Vice President for Convention, Education & Training at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), “and most of the secretaries of state.” As a professional association, ISRI not only wants to sell tickets to its annual conference. It wants good attendance from recycling professionals so they benefit from the networking opportunities. And people like Stanley McChrystal and Bill Clinton help them do that.


  • These Aren’t Wireless Headphones
    A look at Apple’s new wireless earbuds – if you’re like me and don’t really pay a lot of attention to Apple news, then you might know the ins and outs about this new product. Seems like it covers a lot of interesting use cases, but I’m not prepared to drop significant money on something that is so easy to lose (and only supports Apple devices)

    One more simple feature holds perhaps the most telling clue to what Apple has in mind for the future. Tap the AirPods twice while they’re in your ear and you’ll wake Siri, much like how you wake Amazon’s Echo by saying “Alexa.” Suddenly you’ll find yourself conversing with an A.I.–powered voice assistant via a tiny earpiece in your ear.

  • Hillary Clinton’s ‘Invisible Guiding Hand’
    It was surprising when I found out that analytics was such a big factor in a transient event such as an election, but after thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense. The data and analysis that has been accumulated can be reused for subsequent campaigns. However, I think it might be a waste that all the infrastructure might have to be recreated if the people are all new each time (I assume that there is a lot of custom analysis).

    The breakdown of the buy in Texas, powered by Kriegel’s modeling, shows how Clinton’s TV ads budget hunted for delegates, not votes. Texas is the rare state that used state legislative districts to award delegates, and Clinton spent $1.2 million on broadcast and cable ads even as she won the state by 32 percentage points. Sanders spent $0. She spent more on ads in tiny Brownsville ($127,000) and Waco ($142,000), ranked as the 86th and 87th largest media markets in the country, as she did in Houston ($105,000), the 10th largest, according to ad data provided by a media tracker.

    It paid off: In Texas alone, Clinton netted 72 delegates more than Sanders — a margin that more than offset all the Sanders’ primary and caucus wins through March 1.

  • Why Are Babies So Dumb If Humans Are So Smart?
    An interesting hypothesis as to why, when Humans are born, they’re so useless compared to other animals.

    And in modern humans, a few pieces of evidence appear to suggest that smarter parents are more likely to have offspring that survive. In one limited sample—two hundred and twenty-two Serbian Roma women—maternal I.Q. and child mortality were negatively correlated (that is, higher I.Q. meant lower mortality), even controlling for education, age, and a number of other factors. In a larger sample of Californian parents, in 1978, years of education were linked to infant-mortality rates. Global epidemiological studies suggest a decrease in mortality that equals between seven and nine per cent for each year of a mother’s education.

  • We might live in a computer program, but it may not matter
    I just blogged a similar article on this topic a few weeks ago, but this subject is so fascinating that I can’t get enough of it!

    Quantum mechanics, the theory of the very small, has thrown up all sorts of odd things. For instance, both matter and energy seem to be granular. What’s more, there are limits to the resolution with which we can observe the Universe, and if we try to study anything smaller, things just look “fuzzy”.

    Smoot says these perplexing features of quantum physics are just what we would expect in a simulation. They are like the pixellation of a screen when you look too closely.

  • The new science of cute
    Not surprisingly, this article is mostly about Japan – the epicentre of cute. There’s cute though, and there’s fame. This article tries to tackle both.

    But for a mascot to be successful, being cute is not always enough. For every popular yuru-kyara, there are a hundred Harajuku Miccolos – a 5ft-tall yellow-and-brown bee, who I met standing on the pavement outside the Colombin bakery and cafe, celebrating Honey Bee Day with three hours of loitering in front of the cafe, greeting passers-by, or trying to. Most barely glanced in his direction and did not break stride, though some did come over and pose for a photo. There was no queue.


  • They Promised Us Jet Packs. They Promised the Bosses Profit.
    A quick look at how Google X operates – did you know they get bonuses for purposely failing a project? In a way, it makes sense…

    The idea of celebrating failure is a Silicon Valley cliché, but Mr. Teller talks about it in the practical terms of a management consultant. Say you have a team of 20 people working on a project that is not going anywhere, he said in a recent interview. In a year those 20 people will be 30 people. The company has to pay their salaries and health insurance, and the team will inevitably hire a few consultants. Worse, they will have wasted a year.

    How much money could the company save if you could get them to cut bait a year earlier?

  • I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything
    After hearing about this approach, I want to use it when I watch videos (is there a button that I can do toggle this on YouTube yet?). Although one area where this wouldn’t work is if you’re watching music videos (is almost half of the videos that I would watch).

    In the 1960s, a blind psychologist named Emerson Foulke began experimenting with this technique to accelerate speech. A professor at the University of Louisville, Foulke was frustrated with the slowness of recorded books for the blind, so he tried speeding them up. The sampling method proved surprisingly effective. In Foulke’s experiments, speech could be accelerated to 250-275 wpm without affecting people’s scores on a listening comprehension test.

    These limits were suspiciously close to the average college reading rate. Foulke suspected that beyond 300 wpm, deeper processes in the brain were getting overloaded. Experiments showed that at 300-400 wpm, individual words were still clear enough to understand; except at that rate, many listeners couldn’t keep up with rapid stream of words, likely because their short-term memories were overtaxed.

  • Everything we love to eat is a scam
    On the one hand, I suspect that the findings in this article are true (I’ve experienced a wide range of quality in salmon sushi), but as an avid food eater (which I hope you are too), it really sucks.

    Farmed Cambodian ponga poses as grouper, catfish, sole, flounder and cod. Wild-caught salmon is often farmed and pumped up with pink coloring to look fresher. Sometimes it’s actually trout.

    Ever wonder why it’s so hard to properly sear scallops? It’s because they’ve been soaked in water and chemicals to up their weight, so vendors can up the price. Even “dry” scallops contain 18 percent more water and chemicals.

  • The brilliant mechanics of Pokémon Go
    This Pokemon Go article is about how it is a great freemium game and some reasons why it is so addictive. Of course, now we have confirmation that it is a fad and doesn’t have dominant staying power.

    In Pokémon Go, there’s no feature that allows you to extend the life of your playing session by inviting or reaching out to friends. In fact, the social graph is almost non-existent in Pokémon Go. Instead, your in-game social graph is an extension of a supplemented version of your real-world social graph. A smartphone owner sees someone playing the game, becomes curious, downloads the game and plays it — both interacting with other players and inspiring curiosity in other potential new players. And the rest of the time you’re looking at screenshots of what’s happening in the game in your Facebook feed, or texting friends when you managed to catch that rare Pokémon.

  • How Chromebooks Are About to Totally Transform Laptop Design
    Just because Chromebooks run Android apps, doesn’t make it that attractive to me – I guess I’m not bought into the hype yet and I have a lot of use cases which seem like they will need local storage. Maybe if I wasn’t very OCD about my data I could live with one. In any case, here is a short history of the Chromebook and where we are right now.

    “The first people who bought Chromebooks were people who were computer folks,” he says. “They looked at the Chromebook and said, ‘This is not a real computer, it doesn’t have very many settings!’” They hated that you couldn’t find your files, or change the time setting. But why in the world, Sengupta argues, would any rational person want to manually change the time on their computer? It should just know. “The amount of work it took to eliminate all the settings,” he says, “so that you didn’t have to care and feed for your computer, was the thing that really made it successful.”