Weekend Reads: 9/25/2020

It’s been a week, hasn’t it? On the global scale things aren’t great. Everyone’s experiences are different and several people I know, including my extended family (as I’ve mentioned) have suffered loses due to this pandemic. But you know what all of this means? It means we don’t give up.

I know we want to. I’ve seen it all over Twitter and Facebook. RBG’s death has really hit a lot of people hard, myself included. But we cannot let this tragedy (for that’s what it is) stop us from fighting. We must donate money to Democratic candidates and to bail funds and abortion funds. And most important, come November 3rd, all American citizens must vote.

The only way this country is going to make it is if we vote Biden/Harris. And, if you can, give some money to them. But please, VOTE and keep fighting.

Kévin Reza: I haven’t seen a lot of solidarity in cycling (cyclingnews)

B&B Hotels-Vital Concept rider on Black Lives Matter and racing for the smallest team in the Tour de France

The Wrong Fires (On the Media)

What happens when minor stories detract media attention from urgent crises.

The Glorious RBG (Intelligencer | NY Magazine)

I learned, while writing about her, that her precision disguised her warmth.

A 5-Decade-Long Friendship That Began With A Phone Call (NPR)

In 1971, newly assigned to cover the Supreme Court, I was reading a brief in what would ultimately be the landmark case of Reed v. Reed. It argued that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause applied to women. I didn’t understand some of the brief, so I flipped to the front to see who the author was, and I placed a call to Rutgers law professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Here are a three Ginsberg related things to watch. I’ve seen RBG and it is fantastic. The UMS newsletter shared the 2015 interview.

Sam Neill On His Social Media Fame: “If It’s Cheered Up One Or Two People, Then My Time Was Well Spent” (GQ Australia)

Easily one of the country’s finest (adopted) actors and certainly among its most admired, Sam Neill has also spent four decades as one of its most prolific. But as the film industry ground to a halt, we caught up with Neill to discuss this new age of uncertainty, the future of the arts and his recent foray into social media stardom.

Note: These next two articles go together. Read the short story first, and then the response essay.

“How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary” by Tochi Onyebuchi (Slate)

In this new short story, a city tries to use an algorithm to pay reparations.

Racism Cannot Be Reduced to Mere Computation by Charlton McIlwain (Slate)

No amount of A.I. can save white America’s soul, or restore Black Americans’ long-foreclosed-upon and deferred dreams.

Note: Two related articles from Vice by James Clifton

2012 Is Bullshit; 2020 Is When We’ll Really Be in Trouble

Scientist Peter Turchin’s work suggests that the next state of upheaval in the US is set to hit in 2020 based on historical violence cycles.

The Scientist Who Predicted 2020’s Political Unrest On What Comes Next

Catching up with Peter Turchin, whose theory predicted a period of political violence starting this year.

Why Every City Feels the Same Now (Atlantic – $$)

Glass-and-steel monoliths replaced local architecture. It’s not too late to go back.

Let this video inspire you.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Weekend Reads: 09/18/2020

Some reminders to get your weekend started:

1) When you go out, if you’re going to be around other people, please wear a mask. It helps (NPR). Need a reason to wear a mask? Here you go:

None of those who died actually attended the wedding and reception.

2) Check to make sure that you’re registered to vote! You can do that here (Vote.org). Here are some more resources:

3) Get your flu shot! It’s not too early – in fact it’s the right time. Not sure why, since we’re all staying inside (if we can)? This might help:

Experts worry that the two diseases could overwhelm the health care system and create a new shortage of hospital beds and personal protective equipment.

Thanks for your time! Now, here are your weekend reads.


There are no good choices (VOX)

In shifting so much responsibility to individual people, America’s government has revealed the limits of individualism.

“That’s Their Problem”: How Jared Kushner Let the Markets Decide America’s COVID-19 Fate (Vanity Fair)

First-person accounts of a tense meeting at the White House in late March suggest that President Trump’s son-in-law resisted taking federal action to alleviate shortages and help Democratic-led New York. Instead, he enlisted a former roommate to lead a Consultant State to take on the Deep State, with results ranging from the Eastman Kodak fiasco to a mysterious deal to send ventilators to Russia.

How The Pandemic Is Widening The Racial Wealth Gap (NPR)

Sixty percent of Black households are facing serious financial problems since the pandemic began, according to a national poll released this week by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. That includes 41% who say they’ve used up most or all their savings, while an additional 10% had no savings before the outbreak.

Latinos and Native Americans are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s economic impact. Seventy-two percent of Latino and 55% of Native American respondents say their households are facing serious financial problems, compared with 36% of whites.

“Little Prince” Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on Love, Mortality, and Night as an Existential Clarifying Force for the Deepest Truths of the Heart (brainpickings)

“Day belongs to family quarrels, but with the night he who has quarreled finds love again. For love is greater than any wind of words… Love is not thinking, but being.”

The Secret History of Hypertext (The Atlantic – $$)

The conventional history of computing leaves out some key thinkers.

[..]

In the years leading up to World War II, a number of European thinkers were exploring markedly similar ideas about information storage and retrieval, and even imagining the possibility of a global network—a feature notably absent from the Memex. Yet their contributions have remained largely overlooked in the conventional, Anglo-American history of computing.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

drawing of The Little Prince sitting on the sand and looking up at the sun. he is dressed like a pilot
The Little Prince – illustration from the Korean translation of The Little Prince by Kim Min Ji

Weekend Reads

Before we get to the articles, please consider signing petitions, calling reps, and donating money to demand justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths. Here are some links:

Now, onto the links.

The Public That Cannot Mourn Does Not Exist (The Convivial Society)

Yet, because so many have died in such a brief time, the tragedy takes on an undoubtedly collective and public character. It demands acknowledgement and a reckoning, not simply a tallying. As I write this, however, it begins to feel almost as if we’re prepared to move on. We were shocked on the first day that 100 died and later 1,000, but we somehow acclimated to anywhere from 1,500 to more than 2,000 deaths a day for a few weeks.

The Resillience of Marga Griesbach (The Cut)

Surviving It All: She’s 92, made it through the Holocaust, and set off for a cruise around the world in February.

Two heirs bought Midland dams as a tax shelter. Tragedy followed. (Bridge)

Eventually, a solution came to Mueller, an architect who lives in Las Vegas, and his cousin, Michel d’Avenas, a California musician who is the son of a French count and is now known as the Pebble Beach Bagpiper.

They would avoid taxes by purchasing four small hydroelectric dams in mid-Michigan near Midland, according to hundreds of pages of federal court records reviewed by Bridge.

The Bird Watcher, That Incident and His Feelings on the Woman’s Fate (New York Times – Possible Paywall)

Mr. Cooper’s love of birding began at age 10, he said, when his parents, two Long Island schoolteachers, enrolled him in a 4-H program. There, in a woodworking class, he crafted a bird feeder that he set in his lawn.

The man in the iron lung (Guardian)

When he was six, Paul Alexander contracted polio and was paralysed for life. Today he is 74, and one of the last people in the world still using an iron lung. But after surviving one deadly outbreak, he did not expect to find himself threatened by another

 

Baltimore orioles(c) pepperberryfarm: Baltimore orioles

Friday Links

Oddly, I’ve read a bunch of stuff this week. There’s no theme to these articles, they’re covering a variety of topics. Sometimes I include an ‘if you only read one’ but this week, all of them are pretty good.

Links: 08/08-08/14

Bad news, y’all: everyone should change their passwords again. I know, I’ve told you to do this once, but it’s time to do it again. Now, moving on. Remember, last week, when I said I wanted to go see One Direction this weekend? I’m going! I’m excited.

This week’s links consist of everything from the death of Robin Williams to racism to Ebola. But if you’re feeling a little down, skip to the end, where you’ll find articles about chemistry robots, Murakami novels, and some extraordinary pictures. Plus, of course, the Great Emu War.

Russian Hackers Probably Have Your Passwords. Now What?: Like many people, your first question is probably whether or not you were included in that dragnet. Hold Security, the Milwaukee-based security firm that uncovered the hack, says you can fork over $120 for an annual subscription to find out in the next 60 days if you were affected. The opportunistic move cast doubt on initial reports of the breach, but prominent cybersecurity experts have confirmed them to be accurate.  At this point, you should just assume you were hacked. (TechCrunch)

In Fatal Flash, Gaza Psychologist Switches Roles, Turning Into a Trauma Victim: Hassan al-Zeyada has spent decades counseling fellow residents of the Gaza Strip who experience psychological trauma. Now, as he prepares to aid his neighbors after a new round of combat and carnage, he has a challenging new patient: himself. (New York Times)

Kurdistan: The Best Hope for What is Left of Iraq: There must be urgency about this. Kurdistan is in clear and imminent danger. We surely don’t want to wait thirty years for a declassified CIA document that concedes that backing Kurdistan could have boosted stability but was flunked at great cost. (Rudaw)

Telling white people the criminal justice system is racist makes them like it more: A new study suggests that highlighting racism in the criminal justice system is not the answer, and in fact pushes white voters in the opposite direction. Even when whites believe the current laws are too harsh, they’re less likely to support changing the law if they’re reminded that the current prison population is disproportionately black. (Vox)

The real story behind “secret menus” is the key to hacking them: Ask a barista for a cotton candy Frappuccino, for example, and she’ll create this unofficial favorite by adding raspberry syrup to a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, which is one of the company’s official offerings, an icy and sweet blended drink topped with whipped cream. Knowing how to ask for these twists, or “secret menu” items, is half the fun. (Quartz) Note: This is one of the things I’m not brave enough to do. Not that I’d even want to, if I was.

You can’t win a Twitter fight: I’ve had my fair share of Twitter spats and can confirm it’s an absolutely terrible venue for debate. Tone, nuance, context — all of that goes out the window. Even the most remotely controversial point is destined to be misconstrued. It’s notable that when these debates finally move to email — that is to say, out of the public realm — they become far more respectful and good-willed. (Politico)

Is Sunscreen A Lifesaver Or A Poison: As to whether I should be slathering my kid with sunscreen or not, the good news is that I’m not causing any damage by doing so, and I’m certainly sparing her the painful sunburns of my youth. On the other hand, it may be dangerous to be lulled into thinking that sun exposure is without risk when she wears sunscreen. Protective clothing, hats and shade may have as much — or more — of a direct role to play. Perhaps it’s time for another full-body bathing suit. (FiveThirtyEight)

Plot Thickens as 900 Writers Battle Amazon: Douglas Preston, who summers in this coastal hamlet, is a best-selling writer — or was, until Amazon decided to discourage readers from buying books from his publisher, Hachette, as a way of pressuring it into giving Amazon a better deal on e-books. So he wrote an open letter to his readers asking them to contact Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, demanding that Amazon stop using writers as hostages in its negotiations. (New York Times)

Timeline of China’s Social Media Crackdowns (Wall Street Journal) Note: I’ve occasionally considered signing up for a weibo account (I like a lot of Chinese/etc singers and actors), but the real name thing has always put me off.

Ebola in Africa and the U.S.: A Curation: That I am anti-Ebola panic — and especially anti-Ebola media scrum, which was disgraceful — does not mean I am not concerned about Ebola where it is authentically a problem, which is in the expanding epidemic in West Africa. It is a dreadful outbreak, it needs attention, and it says something ugly about us as a society that we only really noticed it when two Westerners were injured by it. But, again: The conditions that are pushing that epidemic along do not exist in the US. (Wired) Note: I haven’t read all of the links within this post, but her article itself is worth reading on it’s own.

About Michael Brown’s murder:

Outrage in Ferguson after police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown: On August 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was killed by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, MO. Eyewitnesses to the shooting report that Brown was killed while attempting to surrender, but police say that Brown assaulted the officer before the shooting. (VOX)

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown and What Hashtag Activism Does Right: Social media protests have their limits, but one thing they’re very, very good at is grassroots media criticism. (Time) Note: For pictures from the hashtag, go here. These are powerful, thought-provoking photos.

Black Residents In Ferguson, Missouri, Are Stopped And Arrested Far More Than Whites:  But a higher percentage of white residents have contraband, according to a racial profiling report from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. (Buzzfeed)

Why Did Michael Brown Die in Ferguson?: Michael Brown didn’t die in the dark. He was eighteen years old, walking down a street in Ferguson, Missouri, from his apartment to his grandmother’s, at 2:15 on a bright Saturday afternoon. He was, for a young man, exactly where he should be—among other things, days away from his first college classes.  (New Yorker)

Social media posts from scene of Ferguson shooting (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Robin Williams, an Improvisational Genius, Forever Present in the Moment: Part of the shock of his death on Monday came from the fact that he had been on — ubiquitous, self-reinventing, insistently present — for so long. On Twitter, mourners dated themselves with memories of the first time they had noticed him.  (New York Times)

Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.: Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.  (New York Times)

What’s Wrong With Comcast?: The story of a company that’s too big to function. (The Atlantic)

Privacy as a premium: Why it’s time to say goodbye to the free internet (The Next Web)

The female Pinterest engineer who pressed tech giants to air embarrassing diversity numbers: Before the recent wave of big technology companies releasing diversity data, there was a one-woman effort by Tracy Chou, a software engineer at the social bookmarking website Pinterest. She issued a call last fall for hard numbers showing how many women engineers worked at tech companies. (San Francisco Business Times)

In Defense of Passwords: They’re inconvenient and insecure, but the alternatives are worse. (Slate)

Blue Is For Boys, Pink Is For Girls: See Children Surrounded By Their Color-Coded Toys: A series of images from South Korean photographer JeongMee Yoon shows exactly how much things have changed today, after manufacturers and marketers made the arbitrary choice to assign pink to girls. For the last nine years, Yoon has been photographing toddlers surrounded by their “favorite” colors–little girls, dressed in pink, blending in with a sea of pink Hello Kitty and princess gear, and little boys in rooms filled with blue Lego and trains. (Fast Company/Co.Exist)

The Great Emu War: In which some large, flightless birds unwittingly foiled the Australian Army (Scientific American) Note: Who HASN’T heard of the Great Emu War???

‘I’m pretty terrified’: Scientists set to excavate ‘Natural trap cave’ where bones of tens of thousands of animals are piled at least 10 metres deep (National Post)

Organic synthesis: The robo-chemist: The race is on to build a machine that can synthesize any organic compound. It could transform chemistry. (Nature)

The 10 Best Haruki Murakami Book: My own favorites are chosen on a “gut” level; I liked these works because they awakened something in me as a reader, spoke to me about things that were already going on my mind, maybe only subconsciously. Some are powerfully entertaining, others just powerful. All seem to connect to an enduring thematic thread of identity, its construction and its preservation. (Publishers Weekly) Note: Of the ten, I’ve read 7. Of the three I haven’t read, the two earliest ones I have on ebook, but haven’t gotten to yet and #5 hasn’t been published in English in the US quite yet. Soon, though.

The Beautiful Junkyard Where Bolivia’s Trains Were Left to Rot: They’re rusted out, long ago stripped for useful parts. Covered in graffiti—some of it pretty good—they’re strangely beautiful relics of an industry left behind. (Wired)