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Tag Archives: pocket

  • The Cycle
    Jose Bautista explains what it’s like to grow up in the Dominican Republic and become a baseball star. Sure, the money is great – but they are still behind in life. And if you’re not lucky, you go back to your life in your 20s with a 6th grade education.

    At age 12 or 13, you’ll be recruited to play at one of the many baseball academies across the country. “Academy” makes it sound like a school. Most of them are more like baseball farms. Your family signs a piece of paper for consent and you’re pulled out of school to go train at sparse facilities in the middle of nowhere. They’re not regulated. They’re private institutions run by guys called “buscones” — part trainers, part agents. You sleep in these big empty rooms filled with bunk beds. You do two things: You play baseball and you sleep. There are no books, no computers, maybe one old TV. Before you’re a teenager, your education is over.

  • Blockbuster Anatomy: Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos on the Tulowitzki and Price Deals
    Light story about the Jays’ deadline deals. Their record now is even better than when the article was written!

    Anthopoulos, though, said that questions over his job status didn’t influence his decision to be so aggressive at the deadline.

    “I’m always focused on both short term and long term,” he said, citing the $3.9 million spent to sign 16-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his refusal to give up dynamic (and injured) starter Marcus Stroman for more immediate help. “You do the job as if you own the team, and as if you’re going to be here forever, because that’s your responsibility.”

  • Elite Snipers 101
    Jonathan Quick talks about what it is like to face world-class talents aiming to score a goal on him, and how he’s able to prevent it.

    Most guys have a little tell. You look at where the puck is in relation to their feet, or the way they’re bending their knees to get ready to shoot, and you just know what’s going to happen before it happens. But the problem with Datsyuk is that he fools you with his intentions. He will be way out on the wall with his hands, feet, and eyes positioned for a cross-ice pass — and it’s the right decision. It’s what 99 percent of players will do in that situation. So you instantly start cheating your eyes over to where he’s going to pass. Next thing you know — what the hell? — the puck is behind you in the net. He shot it. Who shoots from there? Datsyuk shoots from there.

  • The Death of Cantonese?
    It starts with schools teaching in Mandarin (~70% of schools in HK already do this), and writing in Simplified Chinese. Although I’m actually more curious what

    The potential for the erosion of Cantonese is not without precedent. Shanghainese was once the dialect for the entire Yangtze region and, despite the fact it still has around 14 million speakers, the Central Government has actively been discouraging its use in schools since 1992. A 2012 survey by Shanghai’s Academy of Social Sciences found four in 10 school students in the city couldn’t speak Shanghainese at all.

  • The Mob’s IT department
    A story about how 2 IT professionals ended up ensnared in a gang’s operations to smuggle drugs into Europe. They’re still in front of a judge, but this article paints them as unwilling participants.

    He and Van De Moere discussed going to the police. They later explained they dismissed the idea out of fear. These were clearly men who didn’t resolve disagreements with the usual conference call or attorney’s letter. Calling the authorities would anger them more. They decided the prudent course was to let the whole bizarre incident go and hope Maertens never heard from them again.


  • The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, the Experiment That Changed Superheroes Forever
    It’s been several years since I stopped reading comics, but when I did I devoured the Ultimate universe comics from Marvel. I didn’t know that it was winding down (not by choice) so this was news to me, and it is always interesting to hear some of the back story behind the genesis of the idea.

    The history of Ultimate Marvel is, in a way, a story about warring approaches to a reboot: Bendis’s and Millar’s. Bendis wanted to polish the old archetypes; Millar wanted to aggressively critique them. Bendis sought timeless stories; Millar craved biting contemporary political critique. Bendis was looking to inspire; Millar aimed to disquiet. As Bendis put it: “I’m writing about hope and he’s writing about nihilism, and I know he doesn’t always think he is, but he is. Constantly.”

  • In Flight
    An article that has been going around, written by a pilot, about what happens on a routine trip from London to Tokyo. There’s a lot of colorful English being used but beyond the high school english assignment, there are some interesting tidbits that you wouldn’t be aware of unless you were a pilot.

    INTAK is a waypoint. An airplane typically navigates through sky countries along a route composed of a few radio beacons and many waypoints. Waypoints are defined by coordinates or their bearing and distance from a beacon, and by a name, which typically takes the form of a five-letter capitalized word — EVUKI, JETSA, SABER — that’s pronounceable and distinct to controllers and pilots regardless of their first language. Waypoint names are the sky’s audible currency of place, atomized and distinct.

  • Viacom Is Having A Midlife Crisis
    Viacom used to be great, but the owner is not as involved anymore and it seems like it’s going downhill because of that. Of course, no one wants to admit that that is the reason…

    Dauman has taken an unusual tack when he’s spoken to analysts about Viacom’s recent performance. The lower ratings for its programming, he says, aren’t the result of the rising popularity of YouTube or poor creative choices at Viacom. Instead, the loss of viewers is an illusion, he says. The fans are there in growing numbers. They just aren’t being properly counted. According to Dauman, Nielsen’s ratings fail to account for the TV that people consume via apps on their smartphones, streaming devices such as Roku, desktop websites, or various video-on-demand services. “Inadequate measurement undermines innovation,” Dauman said during a recent earnings call, “and disproportionately impacts those leading programmers like us who effectively provide the multiplatform experiences that viewers demand.”

  • When One App Rules Them All: The Case of WeChat and Mobile in China
    A primer on how WeChat is different and why it’s successful in China. I tried using WeChat and Weibo in the past but since I can’t read Chinese, it was a non-starter for me. I guess I’ll have to wait until some company in the Western world brings over the idea.

    This focus on function over social has significant consequences for brands. Where brands must rely on static, one-size-fits all blasts in U.S. social networks — and users are confined to only liking, favoriting, commenting on, or sharing posts — WeChat shows us what’s possible when brands are offered more options for interacting with their users. For example, where Starbucks could post an offer for all users on its Facebook page, on WeChat, it could theoretically also allow a user to inquire after their gift card balance, place a favorite drink order, find the nearest store without having to specify intent, or receive a promotion tailored to drink preferences based on the weather in that city. Where a celebrity like Taylor Swift can share 140 characters about her upcoming concert on Twitter, on WeChat, she could send a concert discount code to users who purchased her album, or charge users a small fee for daily pre-recorded morning greetings (some celebrities in Asia actually already do this!).

  • How Canada’s economy went from boom to recession so fast
    Not surprisingly: lower resource demand and China.

    By the time the smoke cleared, nearly $3.2 trillion had been wiped off the Chinese stock market—or, about twice the value of India’s entire stock market value. Put another way: Greece’s total government debt—the cause of austerity measures, panicked bailout renegotiations, and even a referendum—is only $375 billion, or about one-10th the amount lost by Chinese stock traders.


  • I was an undercover Uber driver
    What is it really like to be an Uber driver? Doesn’t sound so luxurious or much different than a normal taxi driver…

    If there’s a $10 ride, $1 Uber will keep it, for insurance or safety or whatever they want to call it. [This dollar is technically called the “safe rides fee,” but yeah.] And then from $9, they will take 20 percent, that would be $1.80. So after, the driver will take home $7.20.

    If they cut the rate in half, the same ride is now $5. Just example, OK? So Uber takes $1, and then out of $4, Uber takes 80 cents, so the driver will make $3.20. And if the demand is double, then another driver will also make $3.20. So the total driver pay is $6.40 vs. $7.20 before, but customer paid same $10 — means Uber’s taking extra money.

  • Elon Musk’s Space Dream Almost Killed Tesla
    In the late 00s, Several of Elon Musk’s businesses including Tesla and SpaceX were on the brink…of bankruptcy. Here’s a look from the SpaceX angle before he found success.

    Currently, SpaceX sends up about one rocket a month, carrying satellites for companies and nations. The company can undercut its U.S. competitors—Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences—on price by a wide margin. It also offers U.S. customers a peace of mind that its rivals can’t. Where competitors rely on Russian and other foreign suppliers, SpaceX makes its machines from scratch in the U.S. Its $60 million per launch cost is much less than what Europe and Japan charge and trumps even the relative bargains offered by the Russians and Chinese, who have the added benefit of cheap labor and decades of government investment.

  • Poor Little Rich Women
    This excerpt from a new book about the wives of wealthy Upper East Side residents has a tantalizing tidbit about so-called “wife bonuses”. I bet the rest of the book is nowhere near as controversial, but this teaser does pique my interest to read it.

    And then there were the wife bonuses.

    I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a “bonus” over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn’t work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her “year-end” to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.

  • How Shrek went from the world’s biggest animated franchise to the internet’s creepiest meme
    I thought the first Shrek was pretty good but then it dropped off the radar for me. Who knew it has spawned a bunch of sequels and aged quite poorly? I guess at some point I’ll have to watch it again and see if the jokes are corny now and whether the references are all dated.

    Chris Farley’s Shrek centered on a teenaged ogre who wanted to be a knight, opposite a sarcastic princess voiced by Janeane Garofalo. But Myers wanted to make Shrek his own, insisting on a total script rewrite before he joined the project. After recording his Shrek in a version of his normal speaking voice, Myers was struck with inspiration: Shrek should have a Scottish accent. Per his wishes, all of his dialogue was re-recorded in the Scottish brogue — an 11th-hour change that multiple sources claim cost the project at least $4 million. (Myers disputes the figure.)

  • “What’s one thing you’ve learned at Harvard Business School that blew your mind?”
    I approached this article thinking it would be a dud but it was actually quite interesting, including this theory which I’ve seen applied by the Dragons on Dragon’s Den

    There are two primary types of pricing: Cost-Based and Value-Based. In Cost Based pricing, you figure out how much it costs you to provide a service. Then you add a mark up and use that price to sell to the customer.

    The idea behind value pricing is that there’s actually a much wider wedge between the two things:

    First, there’s the amount your Product costs to make.
    Then, there’s the amount your Product saves the other company (or how much more it allows them to sell — but basically the financial impact giving your product has).

    You should charge somewhere between those two points.


  • Should You Bring Your Unborn Baby to Work?
    It’s not so much a question of should you work with an unborn baby, but how much work is too much. The scientific data however, seems inconclusive.

    One possible explanation for the differing outcomes is this: contrasting social realities may affect how citizens of different countries respond to stressors. Denmark and other Nordic countries have legendary social safety nets, including laws that require employers to accommodate pregnant women by changing their duties or, if they can’t, allowing the women to go on leave. The absence of a relationship between maternal stress and preterm birth in Denmark, Danish scientists note, may really show that preventive measures are working, not that job strain never causes problems.

  • The Credit Card Obsessives Who Game the System—and Share Their Secrets Online
    A light story about the world of credit card bloggers and the lifestyles that they seem to live due to their livelihood.

    “My friends and I say, ‘Chase the fare, not the destination,’” admits Michael Rubiano, a tech consultant who’s been collecting credit card miles for 25 years and calls himself a points “junkie.” Ben Schlappig, the 24-year-old blogger behind One Mile at a Time, kickstarted his points obsession at the tender age of 14 by doing mileage runs, taking trips for the sole purpose of earning miles. He adds that “a large part of the community doesn’t actually like to travel, but they love gaming the system.”

  • The Hidden Effects of Cheap Oil
    We celebrate cheap gas prices, but there are going to be ripples around the world that we don’t really think about.

    The collapsing price of oil played a role in the recent rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. Venezuela’s economic crisis heightened the risk that Havana would no longer be able to count on the enormous subsidy it has enjoyed for more than a decade from Caracas. The Cuban regime was thus eager to find another source of economic support. It found one in America.

  • Inside the Mad, Mad World of TripAdvisor
    I think TripAdvisor is useful, but has the same issues as other review sites like Yelp and Amazon which this article calls out: It’s not always easy to put yourself in the shoes of a biased review, so you probably won’t have the same experience.

    Those reviews carry demonstrable weight. A study by Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research found that for every percentage point a hotel improves its online reputation, its “RevPAR” (revenue per available room) goes up by 1.4 percent; for every point its reputation improves on a five-point scale, a hotel can raise prices by 11 percent without seeing bookings fall off. This has been a boon for smaller, midpriced, independently owned hotels. “Twenty years ago, the brands owned the sense of quality,” says Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. “If I stayed at a big-name hotel, I knew what I was getting.” That sense of confidence in quality, argues Hanson, has been supplanted by TripAdvisor.

  • About Face
    The plastic surgery industry in South Korea is pretty well known, but this is still an interesting article into how it is done and the rationale of why people do it.

    “When you’re nineteen, all the girls get plastic surgery, so if you don’t do it, after a few years, your friends will all look better, but you will look like your unimproved you,” a college student who’d had a double-eyelid procedure told me. “We want to have surgeries while we are young so we can have our new faces for a long time,” another young woman said.


  • The Talking Cure
    There’s a gap between preschoolers of wealthier and poorer families and one city’s attempt to bridge this gap is by running a program to encourage parents from less affluent families to talk to their kids more.

    In 2005, a research foundation named LENA (for Language Environment Analysis) had developed a small digital device that could record for sixteen hours and recognize adult words, child vocalizations, and conversational turns. Such distinctions were important, because researchers had determined that merely overheard speech—a mother holding a child on her lap but talking on the phone, for instance—contributed less to language development. The LENA recorder could also distinguish between actual people speaking in a child’s earshot and sounds from TVs and other electronic devices; children under the age of two appear to learn language only from other humans. The device was about the size of an iPod, and it fit into the pocket of a specially designed vest or pair of overalls. (Children soon forgot about the devices, though they occasionally ended up in the toilet or in the dog’s bed.)

  • The Truth About Your Smile
    A couple of tips that your dentist may have not told you (or maybe you weren’t listening). Some seem a bit far fetched, but a couple seem to be consistent with what I hear. So maybe they are all true?

    Gum, mouthwash, and mints can’t address odor that ultimately comes from the stomach, but cloves (yes, the little sticks that you often put inside of potpourri and Jack-O-Lanterns) have been proven to kill odor-causing bacteria in the mouth—they don’t just mask it like gum or mouthwash or mints do. My family have all known about this and practiced it for years (my parents and I all carry around little tins filled with cloves instead of mints, and I think its because we love garlic-y hummus but we hate bad breath). I suck on one before important meetings and hot dates.

  • The Rich Man’s Dropout Club
    In 2010, Peter Thiel gave 24 people who haven’t graduated college $100,000 to skip it. Here’s how some of them turned out – TLDR: No major success stories yet. Although I think this argues for gap year(s) where young adults can pursue some non-academic experience.

    One fellow, John Marbach, left the program after his first year. One of the younger participants, he felt out of step with the others. “The Thiel Foundation said, ‘Oh, we’d be happy to introduce you to VCs and CEOs and coaches,’” he recalls. “But there was no, like, ‘Oh, we could introduce you to some normal friends.’” He returned to Wake Forest and will graduate this year.

  • The Rat Tribe of Beijing
    A couple of stories about people in Beijing who live underground in converted bunkers – the rooms are still tiny, but at least the rent is a bit cheaper. Oh yeah, it’s illegal of course.
  • This Michigan Farmer Made $4 Million Smuggling Rare Pez Containers into the U.S.
    No doubt there is some hyperbole here to make the story read better, but this is a rags to riches story fueled by OCD about collecting.

    Steve first noticed Pez while hawking cereal-box toys at the Kane County toy fair outside Chicago. The psychedelic colors and addictive collectibility of the dispensers immediately hooked him. “I learned that Canada got different stock straight from Pez factories in Europe,” he says. Weeks later he began making pilgrimages north to buy boxes of rare Merry Melody Maker dispensers (with built-in whistles) and Disney designs, for mere pennies. In Michigan, Joshua organized the stock and sold it to American collectors via mail order at up to $50 apiece. The Glews could finally afford clothes and food. Steve’s Dumpster-diving days were over.


  • Is the IKEA ethos comfy or creepy?
    A look at the cult-ure that is IKEA, and how it became successful.

    In 2007, BJURSTA, an extendable oak-veneer dining table, cost two hundred and ninety-nine dollars. Mindful of the recession and of rising wood prices, IKEA hollowed out the legs (which reduced the weight, making transport cheaper) and consolidated the manufacture of parts (bigger orders cost less). Customers appreciated that the table was lighter and less expensive. The more tables they bought, the more IKEA lowered the price. By 2011, BJURSTA cost a hundred and ninety-nine dollars.

  • The Aging of Abercrombie & Fitch
    In contrast, here’s the story of how Abercrombie & Fitch went from a success to an also-ran.

    Abercrombie & Fitch went public in 1996. It had about 125 stores, sales of $335 million, and profits of almost $25 million. Jeffries wrote a 29-page “Look Book” for the sales staff. Women weren’t allowed to wear makeup or colored nail polish. Most jewelry was forbidden. So were tattoos. Hair had to be natural and preferably long. Men couldn’t have beards or mustaches. The only greeting allowed was: “Hey, what’s going on?” Store managers spent one day a week at their local college campus recruiting kids with the right look. They started with the fraternities, sororities, and sports teams. Managers forwarded photos of potential employees to headquarters for approval.

  • Have a scientific problem? Steal an answer from nature
    I thought this article would talk about how we’re using nature as a muse to solve problems, but instead it just talked about how nature has solved its problems in the optimal way.

    Some of the most interesting examples of optimality in biology take the form of exquisitely sensitive and discriminating sensors. Our own eyes provide a surprising instance of this. We are all aware that our vision is not the best to be found in the animal kingdom. We can’t see in the dark like many of our pets, and we have nothing close to the acuity of a bird of prey. But inside our eyes, on our retinas, are photoreceptors that can detect individual photons. The quantum nature of light means that, for light in the visible (to us) spectrum, it is physically impossible for our photoreceptors to be any better.

  • Father, Son and the Double Helix
    The use of genetic testing is a burgeoning industry…in India….to determine if a son is legitimate or not. I guess it’s not that surprising that commercial application of the science is happening, and it makes a lot of sense in this case.

    The trickiest case of a child swap he has dealt with was also one that became a primetime sensation. “In the late 80s, I came to India from the US at the request of the Delhi Police, who were facing incredible pressure to solve a child swap case in Safdarjung Hospital that was all over the media,” he says. Five couples had had babies in the hospital on the same day, four of them had died, and the only one alive, a girl child, was being turned down by the supposed mother, who claimed she remembered feeding a male baby before it was taken from her by the staff for a clean- up. “This was double trouble. Where was her child, then, and who did the baby girl belong to? The police brought up the remaining four couples and I took all their DNA samples. But meanwhile, the police was in a hurry to close the publicised case so they brought a male baby found at a railway crossing and gave it to the mother saying that must be her missing son. Before I could present the results of the paternity and maternity tests, the mother had accepted the boy as her own, even persuading me to believe that the newborn’s nose was just like her husband’s.” Dr Mehra, how ever, carried on with the investigations and what emerged at the end of it was bewildering. “We dug up the remains of the four dead children. It turned out that the lady’s son was amongst the dead, and the baby girl belonged to one of four couples who had gone back to their village and observed every ritual of mourning for the dead child. The woman who had lost the son decided to keep the baby from the railway track and raise it as her own.”

  • Scorched Earth, 2200AD
    A somewhat disappointing article which teased to talk about how we would live in the climate changed Earth of next century, but only a few paragraphs are spent on that topic.

  • How Facebook and Candy Crush Got You Hooked
    A short article about a theory on why we get hooked on things like games and using apps. A good surface look but some associated reading is needed to really dig into the topic.
  • What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs
    After 2 years on the job as Yahoo!’s CEO, Marissa Mayer hasn’t really turned the ship around as she was meant to. This article takes a look at her changes – where she’s succeeded, and where she seems to be struggling.

    Mayer also had a habit of operating on her own time. Every Monday at 3 p.m. Pacific, she asked her direct reports to gather for a three-hour meeting. Mayer demanded all of her staff across the world join the call, so executives from New York, where it was 6 p.m., and Europe, where it was 11 p.m. or later, would dial in, too. Invariably, Mayer herself would be at least 45 minutes late; some calls were so delayed that Yahoo executives in Europe couldn’t hang up till after 3 a.m.

  • Whitewood under Siege
    A fascinating inside the world of…shipping pallets – you know, those things that you see in warehouse where goods are stacked on. There’s apparently a long battle between a couple of different business models/companies and possibly some technological revolutions in the future

    For more than half a century, pallet futurists have announced the next big thing, only to see the basic wooden variety remain the workhorse of global logistics. “Lots of people have tried to invent a better pallet,” Robert Bush, a professor at Virginia Tech affiliated with the school’s Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, told me. “We see them almost every day at our testing lab. But it’s harder than people think. It’s surprisingly hard. It’s one of those things that people got pretty close to right the first time.”

  • Christmas Tree, Inc
    A somewhat bland, but informative article on how Christmas trees are “farmed” and how they end up in your millions of home across America.

    “We’ve seen [a bust] four times in the last 40 years. That’s how stupid we are,” Ken says. “Just as sure as we’re sitting here, we will overplant again, and there will be an over-harvest of Christmas trees in 2022.”

    But, as Ken noted optimistically, trees will be really expensive in 2016 — a six-foot Noble fir that cost $16.75 wholesale in 2013 might be as high as $22.

    And people will pay. The recession did not impact the demand for Christmas trees, for instance. Christmas trees are remarkably recession-proof. People will find that $40, even if it’s been a tough year.

  • Sneaking Into The Super Bowl — And Everything Else
    A story about sneaking into a bunch of sporting events like college football and the World Series. There’s also a teaser about sneaking into the Super Bowl, but you’ll need to buy his book (which doesn’t have a publisher yet) to read that… actually after reading the article, it’s not really that interesting.

    Cooper passed through the turnstile and turned left. Confidently, I strode through the same turnstile, my right hand reaching deep into my pocket, the ticket taker on my right. She paused ever so briefly, as if to convey that her elderly mind wasn’t processing why things were taking place out of order — that her monotonous task had been inexplicably altered in some way. I looked straight ahead and said nothing.


  • My evil dad: Life as a serial killer’s daughter
    You always hear about serial killers in the news, but you don’t always hear about how their families cope with the fact that their loved one is in fact a serial killer. Here’s the story of a serial killer’s daughter.

    When I was 13, we were driving along the Columbia River, a beautiful wide river that separates Washington State and Oregon. We were just getting close to the Multnomah Falls area when my Dad announced: “I know how to kill someone and get away with it.” Then he just started to tell me how he would cut off the victim’s buttons, so that there wouldn’t be any fingerprints left, and he would wear cycling shoes that didn’t leave a distinctive print in the mud.

    At the time, I put this down to my father’s penchant for detective fiction, but years later I realised we had been driving through the area where he had disposed of Taunja Bennett’s body three years earlier. I think he wanted to relive it and enjoy the moment again. My dad felt compelled to share his crimes, as he did in the messages that he left at truck stops, or sent in letters to the media. They were always signed with a smiley face, leading the media to dub him the “Happy Face Killer”.

  • The Programmer’s Price
    An article about an agency that’s taking a Hollywood approach to programmers by being a programmer’s agent and helping them find work for the best pay possible.

    Solomon leaned back in his chair and flipped through a mental Rolodex of his clients. “I definitely have some ideas,” he said, after a minute. “The first person who comes to mind, he’s also a bioinformatician.” He rattled off a dazzling list of accomplishments: the developer does work for the Scripps Research Institute, in La Jolla, where he is attempting to attack complicated biological problems using crowdsourcing, and had created Twitter tools capable of influencing elections. Solomon thought that he might be interested in AuthorBee’s use of Twitter. “He knows the Twitter A.P.I. in his sleep.”

  • When Mommy and Daddy took the Toys Away
    Kids have a lot of toys today because consumer goods are so cheap. This article talks about a couple of parents who are trying to limit the amount of toys their kids have.

    Moreover, Becker says that the value of minimalism comes with the lifelong lessons they are able to teach through it. When his children become envious of another child who has a lot of toys, Becker and his wife try to help them “deal with that emotion as opposed to thinking that they’ll overcome it by getting more stuff.”

    “We don’t overcome envy in our lives by getting what another person has,” Becker says. “We overcome envy by being content with what we have and being grateful for what we have.”

  • The Cutthroat world of Elite Public Schools
    I think its a good idea but meritocratic public schools are coming under fire because poorer candidates are not being admitted as much as they should be (one reaspn being that you actually need to put in effort to apply)

    “The idea was that, if you wanted to provide an excellent, gifted, and talented education for public school students, one could do a better job of that if in large cities there were specialized schools that would bring academically talented students together,” said Kahlenberg, who opposes test-only admissions policies such as those in New York City. Secondly, selective-enrollment schools “are very sought after by upper-middle class people who might not consider using public schools if it weren’t for the selective-enrollment institutions. Essentially, it’s a way of ensuring greater participation from wealthier families who might otherwise move to the suburbs.”

  • The secret Hollywood procedure that has fooled us for years
    We know all about photoshopping magazine covers and so enhancing celebrities in movies is not a stretch. But this article has some juicy gossip about who might have had it done.

    A recent comedy hit featured a top actress in her 40s who required beauty work on every single shot she was in — some 600 total. With artists working around the clock, seven days a week, the beauty work alone took close to three months.

    The payoff? Nearly everything written about the film remarked at how fit and young the actress looked. No one suspected it was anything but good genes and clean livin’.


  • How Palmer Luckey Created Oculus Rift
    It’s still early, but here’s a look behind the Oculus Rift and how it might change our media consumption

    From 2009 to 2012, while also taking college classes and working at the University of Southern California’s VR-focused Institute for Creative Technologies, Luckey poured countless hours into creating a working prototype from this core vision. He tinkered with different screens, mixed and matched parts from his collection of VR hardware, and refined the motion tracking equipment, which monitored the user’s head movements in real-time. Amazingly, considering the eventual value of his invention, Luckey was also posting detailed reports about his work to a 3-D gaming message board. The idea was sitting there for anyone to steal.

  • The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster
    I think Red Cross already has public perception that they don’t use their funds in a smart manner. But this article seems like it was written by a couple of bitter employees with a “unbiased” view.

    The problems with the Red Cross’ response to Isaac began even before the storm hit. About 460 mass care volunteer workers — 90 percent of the workers the organization dispatched to provide food and shelter for the storm overall — were stationed in Tampa ahead of landfall, Rieckenberg’s emails from the time say.

    The hundreds of volunteers in Tampa weren’t only there for the hurricane: The Republican National Convention was going on there and the Red Cross wanted a large presence, Rieckenberg says. The Red Cross typically deploys about 20 volunteers to such meetings.

    Emails from the time show Rieckenberg complained that Red Cross officials prevented disaster response leaders from moving volunteers out of Tampa even after forecasts showed that the hurricane wouldn’t hit the city.

  • Bash Mitzvahs!
    I enjoy peering through the looking glass at how rich people live, and this one is about 13 y/o Bar Mitzvahs.

    The solemnity and ritual of the bar mitzvahs themselves make the blowouts that may come afterward all the harder to understand. For example, the family of a girl who had her bas mitzvah at Park Avenue synagogue, who supplied the kiddush — the luncheon afterward — with centerpieces of canned matzoh balls and tuna for the homeless, threw their daughter a $150,000 black-tie reception at Tavern on the Green that same evening. It included a commissioned 60-foot-long mural depicting not the lives of the prophets but those of the Beatles, the bas mitzvah girl’s favorite band.

    The escort cards were gimmicks, like chattering teeth on the “When I’m 64” table. Guests who were seated at the “Yellow Submarine” table, on the other hand, were greeted with a tank full of live fish as the centerpiece. The “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” table was literally suspended from the ceiling by strands of rhinestone-encrusted rope. The bas mitzvah girl sang Beatles songs a cappella to the honorees at her candlelighting, and the evening culminated with a fireworks display that exploded from the center of each table.

  • The man with the golden blood
    This article talks about a couple of people who have rare blood and how that affects their lives.

    Over tea, he described the impact of his blood on his life. As a child he couldn’t go to summer camp because his parents feared he might have an accident. As an adult he takes reasonable precautions: he drives carefully and doesn’t travel to countries without modern hospitals. He keeps a card from the French National Immunohematology Reference Laboratory in Paris, confirming his Rhnull blood type, in his wallet in case he is ever hospitalised. But one thing that is in his blood – and that of almost everyone growing up in the shadow of the Alps – is skiing. Abstaining seems to have been an option he never even considered.

  • My Grandma the Poisoner
    A (true?) story about the author’s grandmother and how she seems to inadvertently poison everyone around her.

    My mother, when she moved back to Grandma’s for a brief time, had many pets—turtles, dogs, hamsters, cats—that successively took ill and died. And there was Joe, the ex-paratrooper who was Grandma’s last boyfriend. He got into the habit of blowing his pension checks in Atlantic City and mooching off Grandma until the next check arrived. Then he got a broken leg and we got all these hysterical calls from Grandma saying she was forced to wait on him hand and foot—and then he was dead.


  • Chinatown’s Kitchen Network
    I though this was an interesting article about how the various Chinese restaurants in SmallTownUSA get cooks (because owners don’t want to slave in a kitchen forever). I don’t think a similar thing happens in Toronto, although I can’t really tell because I never see the cooks. However, the wait staff at a couple of Chinese restaurants that I frequent are consistent.

    Rain lives with five co-workers in a red brick town house that his boss owns, part of a woodsy development near the restaurant. The house is tidy; there are three floors covered with white carpeting, and each worker has been supplied with an identical cot, a desk, a chair, and a lamp. “Some bosses don’t take care of the houses,” Rain said. “If they’re renting the house, especially, they don’t care. The rooms will actually smell.” Every restaurant worker has a story of sleeping in a dank basement or being packed in a room with five other people. Many complain of living in a house that has no washing machine, and being forced to spend their day off scrubbing their grease-spattered T-shirts in a sink.

    Rain’s boss, in contrast, is fastidious. The house has a granite-countered kitchen, but he forbids the employees living there to use it; instead, a hot plate and a card table have been set up in the garage. Outside, the building is indistinguishable from the other town houses, aside from a tin can full of cigarette butts on the doorstep. The shades are kept drawn.

  • Why do people earn what they earn?
    A look at a couple of professions/industries and trends as to why some people in one job earn more than another.

    But the server-as-secret-weapon tells only part of the story. After sifting through lots of academic papers and speaking to economists, I came to think of the depressed pay for cooks relative to waiters as a sort of “dream penalty” at play.

    Spend a day asking middle schoolers what they want to be when they grow up and I guarantee you’ll never hear “waiter,” “actuary,” or “portfolio manager.” Instead, their dream jobs tend to reflect activities they participate in: the performing arts, writing, teaching, cooking, and sports. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that there are so many underpaid actors, reporters, teachers, cooks, and minor league baseball players out there.

  • Super-Intelligent Humans Are Coming
    A discussion about whether (or more correctly, how soon) we will see humans who have IQs of 1000! No discussion about how they will fit into society though, which I think is another problem.

    Each genetic variant slightly increases or decreases cognitive ability. Because it is determined by many small additive effects, cognitive ability is normally distributed, following the familiar bell-shaped curve, with more people in the middle than in the tails. A person with more than the average number of positive (IQ-increasing) variants will be above average in ability. The number of positive alleles above the population average required to raise the trait value by a standard deviation—that is, 15 points—is proportional to the square root of the number of variants, or about 100. In a nutshell, 100 or so additional positive variants could raise IQ by 15 points.

    Given that there are many thousands of potential positive variants, the implication is clear: If a human being could be engineered to have the positive version of each causal variant, they might exhibit cognitive ability which is roughly 100 standard deviations above average.

  • Detroit State of Mind
    What is it actually like to buy one of those really cheap houses in Detroit and work it back into a liveable state.

    Then we found the tall, red brick home standing just off a grand, tree-lined avenue, a house with (53!) new windows, a newish roof, and all the inner workings spared by the roving bands of scrappers that plague the city. We jumped. It had been on the market for a year and a half at $22,000. We got it for $17,000—three flats’ worth clocking in at some 4,000 square feet, with two fireplaces and a garage to boot. The bar and jukebox and pool table in the basement hinted at a past as a speakeasy, and the icebox delivery door in the back landing charmed me, as did the original built-in cabinets. Hardwood floors waited under the carpet, and a park grill set in concrete in the back yard under a pine tree promised cook-outs under the stars. Updating the plumbing and electric would just take a couple weeks, the contractor said.

  • What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?
    One idea in the scientific community is that you age because you think & believe you are old. There have been some experiments done, but is it true or not?

    She recruited a number of healthy test subjects and gave them the mission to make themselves unwell. The subjects watched videos of people coughing and sneezing. There were tissues around and those in the experimental group were encouraged to act as if they had a cold. No deception was involved: The subjects weren’t misled, for example, into thinking they were being put into a germ chamber or anything like that. This was explicitly a test to see if they could voluntarily change their immune systems in measurable ways.

    In the study, which is ongoing, 40 percent of the experimental group reported cold symptoms following the experiment, while 10 percent of those in control group did. Buoyed, Langer ordered further analysis, looking for more concrete proof that they actually caught colds by testing their saliva for the IgA antibody, a sign of elevated immune-system response. In February, the results came in. All of the experimental subjects who had reported cold symptoms showed high levels of the IgA antibody.


  • How to Get Into an Ivy League College—Guaranteed
    I have no problems with the business model that this guy uses, although I agree it’s an arms race. I think most people get caught up on the fact that it’s “guaranteed”. It’s not really guaranteed. The agreement is that if it doesn’t happen, you’ll get (some or all) of your money back.

    Ma says his biggest loss over the years was a $250,000 refund he sent back to the parents in China of a kid rejected by seven Ivies in 2011. “I way overshot,” he says. (Still, that girl ended up attending Cornell, which wasn’t among the eight colleges the family agreed to guarantee. “The mother wasn’t happy with Cornell, can you believe it?” Ma says.)

  • Escape from Microsoft Word
    Some funny examples of why Microsoft Word is difficult to understand (if you ever had to use it for long documents, you might agree)

    A friend at Microsoft, speaking not for attribution, solved the mystery. Word, it seems, obeys the following rule: when a “style” is applied to text that is more than 50 percent “direct-formatted” (like the italics I applied to the magazine titles), then the “style” removes the direct formatting. So The New York Review of Books (with the three-letter month May) lost its italics. When less than 50 percent of the text is “direct-formatted,” as in the example with The New Yorker (with the nine-letter month September), the direct-formatting is retained.

  • How the Shinkansen bullet train made Tokyo into the monster it is today
    The largest effect of the bullet train seems to be that it made most of Japan one giant metropolis with the name of Tokyo.

    In the early 1990s, a new Shinkansen was built to connect Tokyo to Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. The train ran along a similar route as the Shinetsu Honsen, one of the most romanticised railroads in Japan, beloved of train buffs the world over for its amazing scenery – but also considered redundant by operators JR East because, as with almost all rural train lines in Japan, it lost money. There were only two profitable stations on the line – Nagano and the resort community of Karuizawa – and both would be served by the new Shinkansen. A large portion of the Shinetsu Honsen closed down; local residents who relied on it had to use cars or buses.

  • Why We Keep Playing the Lottery
    Some ideas as to why people keep playing the lottery even though it’s almost impossible to win

    Selling the lottery dream is possible because, paradoxically, the probabilities of winning are so infinitesimal they become irrelevant. Our brains didn’t evolve to calculate complex odds. In our evolutionary past, the ability to distinguish between a region with a 1 percent or 10 percent chance of being attacked by a predator wouldn’t have offered much of an advantage. An intuitive and coarse method of categorization, such as “doesn’t happen,” “happen sometimes,” “happens most of time,” “always happens,” would have sufficed, explains Jane L. Risen, an associate professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, who studies decision-making. Despite our advances in reason and mathematics, she says, we still often rely on crude calculations to make decisions, especially quick decisions like buying a lottery ticket.

  • Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa
    Similar to how the lottery preys on poor people; new business models are springing up to keep poor people in debt

    By the next day, the Abbotts had a remade living room, two companion pieces, both of the same blended material, 17 percent leather. The love seat and sofa retailed, together, for about $1,500. Abbott would pay for hers over two years, though she still had paying the option to pay monthly or weekly. The total price if paid weekly: $4,158.


  • Billie Bob’s (Mis) Fortune
    Yet another story about a normal person who won the lottery, only to find his life going sour

    Gerstner says Bonner told her that he had finally hooked up Billy Bob with Stone Street. Bonner told her that Billie Bob would receive $2.25 million in cash in exchange for ten years’ worth of his share of the lottery winnings, worth more than $6 million gross. Gerstner says she immediately knew it was a very bad deal for Billie Bob. She was also concerned about the legality.

  • The Downsides Of Being a Dad
    An article that argues that maybe it doesn’t matter if you spend a lot of time with your kids

    I spoke with roughly a dozen experts and posed an identical scenario to each one. Say you have three fathers: one coaches his kid’s Little League team; one shows up to the games and cheers the kid on from the sidelines; and the other drops his kid off at practice. Is there any data to suggest that a kid’s long-term success is determined or even influenced by which type of father he has?

    And the answer, from each of the experts, was the same: nope, none, zero.

  • What Happens When You Enter the Witness Protection Program?
    I was expecting this article to have all sorts of Hollywood stories about criminals being whisked away, and having to live a new life; but no, the focus is mainly about the program itself rather than interesting plot twists

    The Witness Protection Program does face new challenges since its mob heyday and the period described in WITSEC (Shur retired in the 1990s). The first that most consider is the impact of the Internet. Even if it still seems ordinary for an adult in a small town not to use social networks, risk is amplified by the increasing number of digital traces our lives create. In addition, companies and organizations now have much higher expectations for finding a paper trail (or digital record) for any individual, making it harder to create a credible new identity.

  • Why Chinese patients are turning against their doctors.
    Usually when you read about problems in China, it’s about pollution or free speech. Here’s an interesting look at their medical system.

    I heard countless tales of overwork among Chinese doctors. A leading radiologist in Shanghai told me he’d heard that the record number of patients seen in a day is three hundred and fourteen. “That was at the Shanghai Children’s Hospital,” he said. “One doctor, 8 A.M. to 6 P.M., ten hours, two minutes per patient.” According to a study conducted in Shaanxi province, the average visit to a doctor’s office lasts seven minutes, and physicians spend only one and a half minutes of that time talking to the patient. As a result, patients tend to be pushy, crowding in doorways and entering without knocking. Joe Passanante, a doctor from Chicago who did a stint at Beijing United Family Hospital, told me that he was once performing CPR on a woman when the parents of a girl with a fever walked into the room. “Here I am pushing on a dead person’s chest, trying to revive her, and they’re asking me to see their daughter,” he recalled.

  • Why do we have blood types?
    Interesting article about the evolutionary reasons why we have blood types – and the pitfalls in our civilization before we realized the concept of blood types

    Landsteiner found that the clumping occurred only if he mixed certain people’s blood together. By working through all the combinations, he sorted his subjects into three groups. He gave them the entirely arbitrary names of A, B and C. (Later on C was renamed O, and a few years later other researchers discovered the AB group. By the middle of the 20th century the American researcher Philip Levine had discovered another way to categorise blood, based on whether it had the Rh blood factor. A plus or minus sign at the end of Landsteiner’s letters indicates whether a person has the factor or not.)


  • The life and death of a master of the universe
    The story of a successful, well-meaning (at least as portrayed by the article) entrepreneur who was pushed into depression and then suicide by activists against his social projects in Africa.

    Wrobel’s signature project as CEO of Sithe was the Bujagali hydroelectric project in Uganda. For years, the country’s economic development was crippled by a lack of widespread, reliable electricity and a dependence on trucked-in oil. The $900 million, 250-megawatt facility on the Nile River was funded by Sithe and public-sector partners, and launched commercially in August 2012. The dam boosted economic growth by nearly doubling the country’s electricity capacity and by providing renewable power at a price two-thirds lower than before, according to Sithe materials. Wrobel helped put together more than $20 million in social program funding to accompany the project, including investments in education, health, environmental resources and business development.

  • Burger King Is Run by Children
    Given the recent news about the Tim Hortons and BK merger, I figure I should jump to this article in my queue and read it. Basically, it says that BK is in the business of making money, and not so much about food.

    Wall Street has responded enthusiastically. Burger King went public again in June 2012 in an offering that put a $4.6 billion value on the company. As of early July, its market cap had risen to more than $9 billion. The doubters are in the minority now, and many in the investment community would like McDonald’s and Wendy’s to mimic the kids at Burger King. “These things are seemingly working at Burger King and causing questions to be asked about the strategy of others in fast food,” says David Palmer, an analyst who covers the restaurant industry for RBC Capital Markets (RY). “Like, why aren’t you doing what they’re doing?”

  • The Secret Life of an Obsessive Airbnb Host
    An interesting look at what it’s like to be an Airbnb host. I haven’t stayed with Airbnb myself yet, although I might try at some point in the future. I’m nowhere near considering being a host though.

    The year was 2011 and Airbnb was far from a household word. Telling my mother that “I could sleep in the office once in a while to earn extra income” made the absurdity of my plan palpable. I had to run the idea past someone, and Mom is a black belt in reality checks.

    It didn’t surprise me that she couldn’t fathom why I would move out of my apartment for days on end because a stranger was paying me ninety dollars per night to sleep in my bed. To a woman who watches hours of crime dramas every day, the concept of Airbnb sounded harebrained. But I knew I wasn’t crazy — just desperate.

  • nterview with an Auschwitz Guard: ‘I Do Not Feel Like a Criminal’
    Interesting because of the history, and because I visited the site a few years back

    SPIEGEL: Did you see the corpses being burned?

    W.: The crematorium chimneys weren’t very tall. Depending on the wind direction, it stunk badly. And starting in 1944, the crematoria weren’t able to keep up. Next to them was a ditch, perhaps three or four meters across. A fire was burning in the trench day and night. Two men were always carrying straps that they used to pull them (Eds. note: the corpses) out of the gas chamber, removed the straps and threw them into the fire. If you were standing in the area, it was impossible to look away.

  • Jimmy Iovine: The Man With the Magic Ears
    A QA with Jimmy Iovine about his career. Pertinent due to Apple’s recent purchase of Beats, and because U2 has a new album (which Apple seems to be marketing)

    Rock has a real problem. All you hear every day is how not cool the record industry is. That’s going to have an effect on who gets into music. All you need is a new Bruce Springsteen deciding he’s going to work for Apple – or create his own. Look at the intensity and force that went into making Darkness. If Bruce ever had a fucking excuse not to do it, maybe he would have chosen not to. It’s the same thing you see when musicians get older. To make an album like [Pink Floyd’s] The Wall or any of the great Stones albums – it’s painful to go to that dark place. When you have horses and a boat and friends in the South of France, kids who want your attention, it makes you not want to go to that place. You go there because you have to.


  • Never Forgetting a Face
    Photo recognition is become more and more common, and this article discusses some of the dangers.

    Dr. Atick sees convenience in these kinds of uses as well. But he provides a cautionary counterexample to make his case. Just a few months back, he heard about NameTag, an app that, according to its news release, was available in an early form to people trying out Google Glass. Users had only to glance at a stranger and NameTag would instantly return a match complete with that stranger’s name, occupation and public Facebook profile information. “We are basically allowing our fellow citizens to surveil us,” Dr. Atick told me on the trade-show floor.

  • Baseball’s Best Lobbyist
    A brief look at MLB super agent Scott Boras and his impact on the Washington Nationals

    Others simply refer to the Boras Effect. “What consistently happens is that there will be a rumor that Boras has a team that is going to give his player X amount of money, then everyone laughs,” says New York Times sportswriter Benjamin Hoffman. “And then someone signs that player for that much money.”

  • At the World Pun Championships, Victory Is Easier Said Than Punned
    I was expecting a great article full of funny puns, but unfortunately I was sorely disappointed. Looks like the competition is more about language agility (similar to spelling bees) than being actually funny.

    In 2000, Tiffany Wimberly won by dressing as RaPUNzel: “When I was a young CURL, a jealous queen LOCKed me in a tower. I was STRANDed … at my SPLIT’S END … truly a damsel in THESE TRESSES.”

  • The History of Mana: How an Austronesian Concept Became a Video Game Mechanic
    If you were ever interested in how the word “mana” came to represent the ability to cast spells, then this article is for you!

    Spell-casting units in Warcraft used a spell point mechanic, and their magical energy was measured by a green bar. What kind of magical energy was it? No one seems to be sure. Apparently the developers had never developed a backstory for their game deeper then “orcs and humans fight.” The reasons why were made up by one employee, who made up the backstory as he went along.

    Warcraft II, released in 1995, changed all that. Now there was a guy whose whole job was to create worlds for the game to take place in. In this game, mana was the official unit of magical energy and the bar that measured it had turned blue.

  • Pablo Escobar’s Private Prison Is Now Run by Monks for Senior Citizens
    When I read this title, I thought the story would be about some weird evolution of a private prison due to mellowing out of a drug cartel mastermind. Well no such thing. Pablo Escobar actually just left his prison, and *now* it’s a senior citizen home (no real story given).

    With the Vice Minster of Justice now a hostage, Gen. Pardo’s 4th brigade had little choice but to strike. All hell broke loose. Mendoza managed to escape amid the frenzy. A sergeant from the Directorate General of Prisons, Mina Olmedo, was shot and killed, and eleven other guards were badly injured. At some point during the madness, the most famous prison inmate in the world and nine of his henchmen simply walked out the back door, past a few guards, into the thick woodland of Mont Catedral.


  • The Burden of Being Messi
    It’s World Cup time, so that means more stories about Messi (previously: a visit to his hometown). Nothing too new here, but a reminder that we’re all waiting for him to succeed.

    “There’s less room for forgiveness for Messi,” Sottile said. They’ve built the team around him, all hopes are pinned on him and yet nobody outside his teammates has his back. Leading your team to a World Cup championship is hard enough to do in a team game, even when everybody in your country loves you. The bar for Messi is so high — it’s not just if Argentina wins, but how — that it’s basically impossible for him to meet it.

  • The Trouble With IBM
    I was still at IBM when Palmisano introduced the Roadmap 2015 plan, and thought it was really aggressive. Now that we’re a little closer to it and more details have come out how IBM is doing, I think it is a good idea that I left when I did.

    That phrase, financial engineering, is a catchall used by critics for the variety of ways IBM has made earnings per share go up even as revenue goes down. The spectrum of maneuvers starts with common practices like dividend increases and share buybacks, and extends to more esoteric tactics like designating major costs as “extraordinary” and devising ways to pay lower tax rates. The most transparent companies present their performance according to generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. IBM’s 2009 annual report didn’t use the phrase “non-GAAP” at all; the 2013 report used it 125 times.

  • Stairway to Heaven: The Song Remains Pretty Similar
    Is Stairway to Heaven a rip-off? It seems pretty likely. I didn’t know that Led Zeppelin had many other songs that were rip-offs though!

    Ultimately, the legal test isn’t what experts say. Under U.S. law, the standard a jury or judge would apply is whether the song in question sounds like a copy to an ordinary lay listener. To get an idea in this case, I conducted an informal poll of passersby on Los Angeles’s Venice Beach and Hermosa Beach, playing clips from Taurus and asking what song it sounded like. Of the 58 people surveyed, 18 named Stairway to Heaven, without being given any song titles to pick from. It was the only song anyone mentioned by name, with the exception of one young man who recognized it as Taurus.

  • Meet the godfather of wearables
    Title says it all – he’s led the field for awhile, and the lead on Google Glass was one of his students
  • Guys and Dolls: Veteran Toy Designer Wrestles With the Industry’s Gender Divide
    This article starts slow, but then goes into some interesting thoughts about how toys are being made now (especially for girls)

    So we came up with this line of girls’ accessories—they weren’t dolls—based on solving mysteries or going on adventures on your bike and solving puzzles and reading maps and finding hidden things. We came up with this whole campaign, the graphics and color combinations and everything. But the marketing people looked at this and they said, “We can’t sell these,” and we said, “Why?” And they said, “Because little girls can’t read.” And we said, “Well of course girls can read, they go to school.” And they said, “No, no, no. The little girls that we would be selling this to aren’t old enough to read,” meaning 5-year-olds.

    We were designing these toys for 10-year-olds, and it was such an eye-opener that they wouldn’t even consider marketing this type of toy to a 10-year-old. I was crushed to realize that we’re limiting a whole lot of play by only selling toys to girls who are so young that they can’t read. Any kind of feature that involves reading, whether it’s instructions or a special little book or anything like that, isn’t very marketable.


  • Why Carl Sagan is Truly Irreplaceable
    A relatively short bio of Carl Sagan as Cosmos is revived and his papers are available at the Library of Congress. I think the most interesting thing that I learned was that he has a sister named Carli.
  • From Retail Palace to Zombie Mall: How Efficiency Killed the Department Store
    I think the most interesting thing about this look back on the peak and downturn of the department store, is how influential design was in making department stores a success. Design is not just a recent thing

    Not only did the design influence where a shopper’s eyes would go, it also influenced the steps that shopper would take through the store. “In a department store, there’s a tile path or flooring that you feel compelled to walk on, because you’re not going to cut through the carpeted area that has all of the fixtures to get from one place to another,” Wood says. “So you follow that path, which leads you where the store wants you to go. It leads you away from the exits and toward the interior. When you want to go up, the elevators are always hidden so that you’re more likely to take the escalator. Once you get to the next level, you have to walk all the way around the other side to keep going up, so you see everything showcased on that floor.”

  • What Do Animals See in a Mirror?
    One of the challenges of a baby is to recognize that what you see in the mirror is yourself. It has been thought that this ability is related to higher intelligence in species. Here’s some more about that idea

    Gallup, now in his 70s, mainly stays away from advocacy work but he likes to philosophize about what exactly mirror self-recognition shows, and why that capability might have evolved. Clearly, it has little to do with mirrors since aside from the occasional still pond, our distant ancestors would never have encountered their reflections. He’s come to the conclusion that a pass of the mirror test indicates a profound level of consciousness that includes animals’ ability to contemplate their own thoughts and experiences as well as to imagine what others could be thinking and experiencing. This ability is called “theory of mind.”

  • The Real Butlers of the .001 Percent
    I was really hoping that this article would be full of juicy gossip about the crazy practices that the .001 Percent have, but there was only one interesting story and a bunch of so-so ones

    The sheik wasn’t on his boat all that often, but when he did set sail, he liked to take the vessel “whoring,” as Bentley puts it. “The girls would all line up on the dock. The sheik would say, ‘You go. You go. You come aboard.'” On one four-day trip from Spain to Morocco, one of the sheik’s wives surprised the crew in port. “She came on board with her daughters, looking in every bed, trying to find a pubic hair.” Luckily, Bentley had been given a heads-up. He had his maids strip the sheets. Meanwhile Bentley hid six prostitutes in his own cabin, knowing that a sheik’s wife would never go into the staff’s lower-deck quarters.

  • Let’s, Like, Demolish Laundry
    A look at the heavy competition in the start-up world around…laundry. This article laments the fact that some of the smartest, motivated individuals in the world are tackling first-world specific problems (and not really problems at that). But hey, there’s money to be made.

    In Silicon Valley, where The Work of creating The Future is sacrosanct, the suggestion that there might be something not entirely normal about this—that it might be a little weird that investors are sinking millions of dollars into a laundry company they had been introduced to over email that doesn’t even do laundry; that maybe you don’t really need engineers to do what is essentially a minor household chore—would be taken as blasphemy. Outside mecca, though, there are still moments of lucidity.


  • How To Think
    Some ideas as to why an inner city school in Brooklyn has been excelling against other American private schools when it comes to chess.
  • The Ice Sculpture Business
    If you ever wanted to know about the Ice Sculpting business, then this is the article to read. The writing is a bit dry, but the topic is obscure enough to capture my attention for the entire article.

    Last year, Bayley and his team built a truck out of ice for a Canadian Tire commercial. The final product weighed eleven thousand pounds, set a Guinness World Record as the “first propelled ice creation to drive,” and garnered attention from every media outlet imaginable. “In all my advertising years, I’d never seen anything get so much publicity,” laughs Bayley. “People from all over the world were calling us.”

  • Falling for the Stars
    A short article about stunt artists

    Once Donaldson had to double for a thirteen-year-old paperboy who rides a bike across a wooden bridge that collapses. The bridge was already built when he arrived on set, forcing him to fall seventeen feet into eighteen inches of water with his arms out. Had the bridge been moved a short distance, he would have fallen into four feet of water, no problem. But there was no time (read: no money). It took three days of walking the bridge and sizing it up before he knew he could do the stunt. “My thinking was if I walk away with a broken arm, chipped tooth and broken nose, I’ll be lucky,” he recalls. He had to do the stunt twice. The first fall nearly knocked him out. Dazed, he got up right away to do it again before he lost his nerve.

  • Production Music: The Songs You Almost Know By Heart
    A quick look into the world of making music for TV and movies (not the celebrity kind)

    “TV is super quick,” he told me. “My quickest thing I did, I did a Russian rap song in two and a half hours,” he said. “They used it. And that was in Russian. I don’t speak Russian. I had to find a Russian rapper to rap on it.” This was for the CW show Nikita, and his two-and-a-half hour effort resulted in three months of rent.

  • Why the Smart Reading Device of the Future May Be … Paper
    This article claims that deep reading (with comprehension) is better using physical paper, and cites a bunch of studies about this. I don’t buy it though, and it seems like the author doesn’t necessarily believe it either

    Ackerman also noted, however, that preference played an important role. When students preferred screen reading, they learned less when required to read from paper, and vice versa.


  • The Pow! Bang! Bam! Plan to Save Marvel, Starring B-List Heroes
    Marvel sold the rights to X-Men and Spider-man, then they were bought out by Disney, and now they’re making even more money than before. Why’s that?

    There were also people at Disney who expressed doubts about Marvel’s film strategy. Says Iger: “I remember someone [saying] on the Disney side, ‘Don’t you want to do Avengers first, and introduce Thor and Captain America in that, and then if they work bring them out afterward?’ ” Feige was adamant that this would be a mistake. He wanted audiences to get to know Thor and Captain America on their own before combining them with Iron Man and the Hulk. Disney was persuaded. Feige was relieved. He had enough things to worry about.

  • Autograph Fakery: Two Firms Monopolize a Lucrative Business
    In order to sell memorabilia nowadays, especially autographs, the article must be authenticated. Unfortunately, it looks like the business of authentication is fake! I think the people who run the businesses know this, but will keep at it as the money keeps rolling in.

    In 2007, a Philadelphia Fox News crew attended a memorabilia show at which JSA set up a booth to evaluate autographs, including those produced by baseball player Sal Bando, who was sitting just a few tables away.

    A Fox artist forged Bando’s signature with minimal practice; JSA approved it without incident.

    “That was a former employee of mine,” Spence says of the Bando auditor. “I believe he was caught off-guard. I wasn’t in the building at the time. They sort of blindsided him with the whole thing.

  • George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview
    I haven’t watched Game of Thrones nor read the Song of Ice & Fire series, but George R. R. Martin is very popular right now so I thought it would be interesting to learn more about him.

    We got into that fight on Beauty and the Beast. The Beast killed people. That was the point of the character. He was a beast. But CBS didn’t want blood, or for the beast to kill people. They wanted us to show him picking up someone and throwing them across the room, and then they would get up and run away. Oh, my God, horrible monster! [Laughs] It was ludicrous. The character had to remain likable.

  • Emerging adults need time to grow up
    There has been a lot written about the “emerging adults” in the 20-29 y/o range, but this author argues that a lot of what has been said is not entirely true and doesn’t take into account changing societal norms

    Emerging adults enter the workplace seeking what I call identity-based work, meaning a job that will be a source of self-fulfillment and make the most of their talents and interests. They want a job that they will look forward to doing when they get up each morning.

    You might think that this is not a realistic expectation for work, and you are right. But keep in mind it was their parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers, who invented the idea that work should be fun. No one had ever thought so before. Baby Boomers rejected the traditional assumption that work was a dreary but unavoidable part of the human condition. They declared that they didn’t want to spend their lives simply slaving away – and their children grew up in this new world, assuming that work should be meaningful and self-fulfilling. Now that those children are emerging adults, their Baby Boomer parents and employers grumble at their presumptuousness.

  • The Life of a Stolen Phone: For the Smartphone Industry, Theft Is a Part of the Business Model
    It’s not entirely surprising that phone manufacturers and carriers WANT you to lose your phone so they can sell you another one. It’s also not surprising that they would work to keep this business model continuing. But I am surprised how this article claims that smartphone theft is so common.

    It takes three people to commit the perfect smartphone robbery. Two of them identify a distracted, vulnerable person — usually a woman, police say — with a phone in tow. The third one carries a gun. He’s the “safety” or “trigger man,” whose role is to intervene only if the victim puts up a fight. In most robbery stakeouts, the trigger man stands by and watches while the other two ambush their victim and run. That lowers the risk, and raises the payoff: If the thieves are caught, they’ll be charged with petty theft rather than armed robbery.


  • Are the robots about to rise? Google’s new director of engineering thinks so…
    Ray Kurzweil is a new Director of Engineering at Google whose mission is to “bring natural language understanding to Google”. But he thinks that robots will pass the Turing test by 2023 so is that all he is doing there?

    Peter Norvig, Google’s research director, said recently that the company employs “less than 50% but certainly more than 5%” of the world’s leading experts on machine learning. And that was before it bought DeepMind which, it should be noted, agreed to the deal with the proviso that Google set up an ethics board to look at the question of what machine learning will actually mean when it’s in the hands of what has become the most powerful company on the planet. Of what machine learning might look like when the machines have learned to make their own decisions. Or gained, what we humans call, “consciousness”.

  • My Life and Times in Chinese TV
    What it it like working as a Western-educated intern at a state-run TV station in China? Surprisingly dull

    In the SMG car that she told to drop me off at the subway, before returning to the office to file her tapes, Zhang Xian explained that what we had just shot would not appear on ICS for a few weeks—until long after Burn the Floor had left the country. The point was not to inform viewers about a specific cultural event that they could attend, but to record that such an event had happened, and let the ICS audience participate in two to two and a half minutes of its afterglow.

  • Street Fighter: The Movie — What went wrong
    This article looks at why the first Street Fighter movie was so horrible. But it reads like a fluff piece. The director did no wrong, but it was a combination of stakeholders, schedule, poorly behaving actors, and luck that did it in. I’m not so sure about that. Also the writing was pretty bad and given that the director was also the writer, I’m not sure he should get a pass at it.
  • The Flight of the Birdman: Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen Speaks Out
    A quick look at the person who made Flappy Bird.

    As news hit of how much money Nguyen was making, his face appeared in the Vietnamese papers and on TV, which was how his mom and dad first learned their son had made the game. The local paparazzi soon besieged his parents’ house, and he couldn’t go out unnoticed. While this might seem a small price to pay for such fame and fortune, for Nguyen the attention felt suffocating. “It is something I never want,” he tweeted. “Please give me peace.”

  • How clones, fear, sanitisation and free-to-play soured Apple’s iOS gaming revolution
    The mobile game industry sucks, basically because of clones and freemium games. Here’s some more indepth analysis into that

    Lovell puts this kind of risk aversion down to “creative fear”. “A lot of my clients are starting with an endless runner simply because they want to learn the free-to-play business in a known genre,” he says. “Think of it like a journeyman wood maker who had to do some basic pieces in order to understand his craft.”


  • You Can Explain eBay’s $50 Billion Turnaround With Just This One Crazy Story
    A not-really-that-crazy story about how eBay’s homepage got revamped and what that means for the culture of eBay.

    Partly, the issue was obvious: eBay had gotten fat and happy. For 10 years it had been a huge success, riding a wave of Internet adoption. During the mid-2000s, eBay was notorious for meetings that always ended in applause — even when the news was bad.

  • Sochi or Bust
    A look at the economy of Russia that was written before the Sochi Olympics.

    Some analysts estimate that these state companies control about half of Russia’s economy. They are sheltered from competition, soak up resources and stoke inflation. State companies award contracts to nominally private companies owned by friends and relatives of their managers. The Sochi Olympics are a prime example: the biggest contracts were given to firms run by Mr Putin’s chums, including Arkady Rotenberg, his boyhood judo partner.

    This sort of thing creates a system of perverse incentives, fosters cynicism and cronyism and discourages those who want to use their initiative and skills. One man has worked for two companies owned by Mr Putin’s friends. His latest employer is a firm owned by a close relative of a powerful government official. “My salary is higher than I would get in an independent firm, but my responsibility is much less. I add almost no value. Connections decide everything,” he says.

  • Caltech: secrets of the world’s number one university
    How is Caltech so good when it’s so small? The answer is not too surprising, but the ability to bottle this lightning and reproduce it across the world is not so easy.

    “I have 77 faculty in engineering and applied science. MIT [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] has 490. How can I compete with an excellent place like MIT? We have to have engineers interact with all of the sciences and vice versa – it is a matter of survival. We don’t have the breadth to do things in a big way unless they interact.”

  • The Man Who Built Catan
    A light article about the person who created Settlers of Catan and the popularity it is having across the US.
  • Think You Could Be A Professional Gambler? Here’s What It’s Actually Like
    A neat story about what it’s like to be a sports gambler (i.e., someone who bets on sporting events rather than just playing blackjack in the casinos). It’s pretty interesting, so much so that I would like a longer form of this (maybe even a book)

    “I was betting Christina Aguilera ‘under’ on the national anthem in the Packers-Steelers Super Bowl three years ago. I did all the research on YouTube — from when she was a little kid, singing at 8 years old right up to the night before the Super Bowl, when she sang the national anthem at a hockey game — knowing we had a good edge on ‘under’ two minutes and 33 seconds, or whatever it was. And it was. She finished at something like 2:17, and we win. Except the books say, ‘Oh you know what? She missed one of the words. No action.’ I’ll never bet that again.”


  • Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie
    Monsanto is known for the genetically modified crops, but now they’re taking a different approach and cross breeding vegetables to improve them. Of course, they are using what they’ve learned from genetics to make this process faster.

    In 2006, Monsanto developed a machine called a seed chipper that quickly sorts and shaves off widely varying samples of soybean germplasm from seeds. The seed chipper lets researchers scan tiny genetic variations, just a single nucleotide, to figure out if they’ll result in plants with the traits they want—without having to take the time to let a seed grow into a plant. Monsanto computer models can actually predict inheritance patterns, meaning they can tell which desired traits will successfully be passed on. It’s breeding without breeding, plant sex in silico. In the real world, the odds of stacking 20 different characteristics into a single plant are one in 2 trillion. In nature, it can take a millennium. Monsanto can do it in just a few years.

  • The Big Sleep
    The story of the Ambien-killer-to-be

    But orexin-related work promised pharmaceutical novelty, which is extraordinarily uncommon. Most new drugs are remixes of old drugs—clever circumventions of patent protections. The last truly original medicines in neuroscience were triptans, for the treatment of migraines, introduced in the early nineteen-nineties. “The science is really what drove us,” Renger said. “To have a new target—to know the genetics of the brain’s control system and to be able to focus on that specifically to control sleep—is a pretty rare event. It’s like the thing people keep promising: you know, the ‘cancer gene.’ This was the first time there was the ‘sleep gene.’ ”

  • Why Taylor Swift is the Biggest Pop Star in the World
    An incomplete bio/promo/conversation with Taylor Swift as she prepares for her fifth studio album.
  • Far From Home
    A quick look at the life of two Filipino citizens who are immigrant workers to Dubai

    The room in which the television stands—the sala, the big family room—has over the years been wholly reinforced. The construction was done bit by bit; Teresa’s parents would tell her about it in long-distance conversations, how every few months a little more of the money Teresa wired was being funneled into repair. First the sala. Then the kitchen. Then the sleeping area, with the old bamboo mats on the floor. “Slowly by slowly,” Teresa said, “they made it stones.”

  • Cheap Words
    This is a very long article strongly biased against Amazon. I wouldn’t say it’s an attack article, but it talks about all the “little” book publishers that Amazon stepped on in its rise. If you hate Amazon, this would be a fun article to read.

  • “How can they be so good?”: The strange story of Skype
    The story of Skype and how a couple of people made a lot of money before Ebay and Microsoft “ruined it”.
  • Container shipping: the secretive industry crucial to our existence
    An extract from a book about this shipping industry. I find it fascinating how shipping just works and we get our goods from overseas. I wish there was an entire article on the economics of shipping.

    There are 20 million containers crossing the world now, quiet blank boxes. Before containers, transport costs ate as much as 25 per cent of the value of whatever was being shipped. With the extreme efficiencies that intermodality brought, costs were reduced to a pittance. A sweater can now travel 3,000 miles for 2.5 cents; it costs a cent to send a can of beer. Shipping is so cheap that it makes more financial sense for Scottish cod to be sent 10,000 miles to China to be filleted.

  • The Social Life of Genes
    Although your genes describe who you are, apparently your environment can cause your genes to express themselves differently. It’s no longer a question of nature vs nuture, but how your social environment affects your nature.

    “We typically think of stress as being a risk factor for disease,” said Cole. “And it is, somewhat. But if you actually measure stress, using our best available instruments, it can’t hold a candle to social isolation. Social isolation is the best-established, most robust social or psychological risk factor for disease out there. Nothing can compete.”

    This helps explain, for instance, why many people who work in high-stress but rewarding jobs don’t seem to suffer ill effects, while others, particularly those isolated and in poverty, wind up accruing lists of stress-related diagnoses—obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart failure, stroke.

  • The Pleasure and Pain of Speed
    The brain likes speed, and technology is glad to oblige. So is increasing the speed of our lives actually bad for us?

    Referring to the theorist Walter Benjamin, Rosa argues that the greater the number of “lived events per unit of time,” the less likely it is these are to transform into “experiences.” Benjamin argued that we tried to capture these moments with physical souvenirs, including photographs, which could later be accessed in an attempt to reinvoke memories. Of course, this process has accelerated, and the physical souvenir is now as quaint as the physical photograph. In Instagram, we have even developed a kind of souvenir of the present: An endless photography of moments suggests that we do not trust that they will actually become moments, as if we were photographing not to know that the event happened, but that it is happening.

  • In the Name Of Love
    A goal of many people is to “Do What You Love” (DWYL), but it turns out that that advice is actually bad for the human race!

    One consequence of this isolation is the division that DWYL creates among workers, largely along class lines. Work becomes divided into two opposing classes: that which is lovable (creative, intellectual, socially prestigious) and that which is not (repetitive, unintellectual, undistinguished). Those in the lovable work camp are vastly more privileged in terms of wealth, social status, education, society’s racial biases, and political clout, while comprising a small minority of the workforce.

    For those forced into unlovable work, it’s a different story. Under the DWYL credo, labor that is done out of motives or needs other than love (which is, in fact, most labor) is not only demeaned but erased. As in Jobs’ Stanford speech, unlovable but socially necessary work is banished from the spectrum of consciousness altogether.


  • My Life as a Young Thug
    An excerpt from Mike Tyson’s biography focusing on his life in Brooklyn and how he got started as a boxer. Interesting read, and you might end up reading the entire book.

    One day I went into this neighborhood in Crown Heights and I robbed a house with this older guy. We found $2,200 in cash, and he cut me in for $600. So I went to a pet store and bought a hundred bucks’ worth of birds. They put them in a crate for me, and the owner helped me get them on the subway. When I got off, I had somebody from my neighborhood help me drag the crate to the condemned building where I was hiding my pigeons. But this guy went and told some kids that I had all these birds. So a guy named Gary Flowers and some friends of his came and started to rob me. My mother saw them messing with the birds and told me, and I ran out into the street and confronted them. They saw me coming and stopped grabbing the birds, but this guy Gary still had one of them under his coat.

    “Give me my bird back,” I protested. Gary pulled the bird out from under his coat. “You want the bird? You want the fucking bird?” he said. Then he just twisted the bird’s head off and threw it at me, smearing the blood all over my face and shirt.

    “Fight him, Mike,” one of my friends urged. “Don’t be afraid, just fight him.”

  • Straight Up
    A short profile into the history and success of Johnnie Walker.

    But Walker understood that to truly make his mark, he needed to conquer a market much closer to home: London. In 1880, he opened offices in the city and became his company’s first brand ambassador. As Lockhart noted, “he understood the art of personal advertisement,” riding around town on a specially built open carriage known as a phaeton, a mode of transport favored by royals and the superrich. Drawn by “two superb ponies,” the conveyance “attracted the desired attention and increased the still-more-desired sales.”

  • The Oral History of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’ Video

    Hollister: But I wasn’t having it: “Are you fucking kidding me? A gun?” He was wearing all brown, and he would have been standing on the butt, looking like … you know!

    Sir Mix-a-Lot: I was wearing a brown shirt and brown pants, and they were taking Polaroids, and I saw that I looked like dancing turd. My boys said, “You always talking like you’re the shit. Well, now you really the shit.” They still ride me on that.

  • Bay Watched
    I read this article, but I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to be about. Certainly, it talks about SF. Certainly, it talks about why some young people are flocking to the city’s tech industry, and it talks about how the new early investing and VC games are working. But I’m not quite sure what it’s trying to shine a light on – how SF is changing but remaining true to its roots perhaps?

    “It’s much more a campaign-based model, where you’re going to crush it for a few years and then be absent for a while,” Bahat said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called a C.E.O., and it’s like, ‘I’m at a meditation retreat!’ or ‘I’m tied up for the next three months!’ ” The meditation lacuna is as much a mark of success as the chockablock schedule, since stepping away is something that only high-achieving people can do. Once, when Bahat reported on LinkedIn that he was leaving a job by changing his status to “Doing Nothing,” his New York friends fretted, and promised to let him know if they heard of any openings. His Bay Area friends, meanwhile, congratulated him on his exit.

  • Remote Control
    A look back at Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, 20 years later.

  • Adventures in the Ransom Trade
    A look inside the interesting and thrilling K&R industry. What’s K&R? Why Kidnapping & Recovery, which apparently rich people pay insurance premiums for.

    Those feeling particularly kidnap-prone can buy in insurance from both sides. You can buy the conventional plan at annual premiums ranging anywhere from $10,000 to more than $150,000 per person. One South American billionaire has insured 90 members of his family; many insure their mistresses. Or you can buy a vacuna, or vaccination, directly from the kidnappers. In Bogota, a $60,000 vacuna will protect you from a half-million -dollar kidnapping. This saves both sides wear and tear.

  • The Notorious MSG’s Unlikely Formula For Success
    The history of MSG with a slight pro-MSG bias.

    The simple fact that has perpetuated the MSG stigma in our culture more than any other is that food high in MSG is almost always bad for you. Almost all of Ajinomoto’s MSG is bought by the processed foods industry — upward of 21 million pounds per year, according to one estimate. Only in poorer countries that lack industrialized food infrastructure is the sale of “over-the-counter” MSG for use in home kitchens significant, Smriga says. Simply put, the foods that provide an average American his or her FDA-estimated half-gram of MSG daily are not healthy. But not because of MSG.

  • Auto Correct
    A look inside the world of self driving cars, with a focus on Google’s initiative.

    It knows every turn, tree, and streetlight ahead in precise, three-dimensional detail. Dolgov was riding through a wooded area one night when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. “I was thinking, What the hell? It must be a bug,” he told me. “Then we noticed the deer walking along the shoulder.” The car, unlike its riders, could see in the dark.

  • Inside the World of Competitive Laughing
    What the heck is competitive laughing? Well it’s a sport that held a competition in Toronto!

    The first challenge is the Diabolical Laugh. Nerenberg demonstrates the technique for the audience with an apt and villainous impersonation that resembles a melding of Dr. Evil and Gary Oldman’s Dracula.

    This laugh can best be categorized in three stages: the initial giggle, followed by an increase in pitch and animated body language, and then finally a near-maniacal crescendo, complete with floor strikes, yelping, and, in some cases, pelvic thrusting. The laughs range from several seconds to more than a minute, but if they seem prolonged or feigned a nearby referee steps in to end it.

  • Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops
    This article talks about sensors in our daily lives and how feedback loops are going to be used to change behaviour. It’s already starting (with products such my Fitbit Force), and this area will just continue to grow. Here’s a good starter

    A feedback loop involves four distinct stages. First comes the data: A behavior must be measured, captured, and stored. This is the evidence stage. Second, the information must be relayed to the individual, not in the raw-data form in which it was captured but in a context that makes it emotionally resonant. This is the relevance stage. But even compelling information is useless if we don’t know what to make of it, so we need a third stage: consequence. The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead. And finally, the fourth stage: action. There must be a clear moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act. Then that action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once more, every action stimulating new behaviors that inch us closer to our goals.


  • Man’s journey from LA to Real Madrid Good Luck Charm
    You can think of this as a made-for-movies story about a guy who volunteered his vacation working for Real Madrid and having those hours pay off for him, or you can think of it as a guy who is just really lucky.

    And so he did. On the morning of Feb. 28, Rodríguez arrived in Madrid and showed up unannounced at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training complex. He didn’t have a ticket for the game. He didn’t even have a hotel reservation. And when the security guy at the guards’ shack refused to let him in, Rodríguez was forced to sit on the side of the road. It had snowed the night before, and the conditions were frigid.

    “I haven’t done anything about that,” Rodríguez said. “My priority was to see you guys and then make my arrangements. If I didn’t see you guys, I’d go to the stadium and try to get a ticket. And if that didn’t work, I’d fly back home.”

  • Seeing at the Speed of Sound
    What is it really like to be a lip reader (and deaf)?
  • About Face
    One of the tenets of psychology is that humans facially express emotions in the same way. This is being challenged by some other research. My gut feeling on this is that humans define specific emotions in different ways (i.e., your angry != other culture’s angry) which is why they are expressed and understood differently in some cases.
  • Dear Leader Dreams of Sushi
    There have been lots of stories about defectors from North Korea, but here’s a story about a Japanese sushi chef who keeps leaving but also returning to North Korea. There must be a reason right?

    “The kids were playing with a kite,” Fujimoto recalled. “It was a Japanese kite with a Kabuki picture. But the kite did not have a tail. So I immediately asked for paper, glue, and scissors and made one. I handed the kite to Kim Jong-un, who stared at me. I said, Hold this and let go when I send you a sign.”

    No members of Kim’s entourage had helped the boys with their failed project. Assisting was simply too dangerous—would aid be construed as a commentary on the boys’ ineptitude or the Dear Leader’s poor parenting? Would a helpful executive then be blamed if the kite didn’t fly? What if the boys rejected the help? Survival necessitated such considerations, and Fujimoto was special because he never made them.

    As a nervous cadre of executives looked on, the tail righted the kite, which rose into the sky. A week later, Shogun-sama called Fujimoto and informed him that the nannies had been fired: Fujimoto would be the boys’ new playmate, a position he would hold until Kim Jong-un was 18. Fujimoto introduced them to video games, remote-control cars, and most important, basketball. Fujimoto’s sister in Japan sent him VHS tapes of Bulls playoff games, so Kim Jong-un’s first taste of Western hoops came from watching Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman—men who became his heroes.

  • The Poorest Rich Kids In The World
    For some reason, I didn’t find reading about two trust fund kids who have horrible parents that interesting.

    Though many of the painful details of their childhoods are backed up by sworn affidavits from family employees and other records, other stories the twins tell about their lives have a surreal, if not downright implausible, tinge. They talk of their stepmother encouraging them to read a satanic bible, holding Georgia down to inject her with drugs, and serving them meat crawling with maggots, which Patterson can’t discuss without dry-heaving. They tell me that while visiting Japan, they witnessed a yakuza torture session; that in Wyoming, they once hid in the trees while drug dealers opened fire on their house; and that during a road trip through Nebraska, their father shot dead a posse of would-be carjackers, after which Walker slid back into the driver’s seat, bloodied, lit a cigarette and muttered, “Don’t talk.”