November 26, 2014

Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

The fact is that when the president came to the podium on Monday night there actually was very little he could say. His mildest admonitions of racism had only earned him trouble. If the American public cannot stomach the idea that arresting a Harvard professor for breaking into his own home is “stupid,” then there is virtually nothing worthwhile that Barack Obama can say about Michael Brown.

Source: The Atlantic.

November 23, 2014

The Secret Life of Passwords

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I began asking my friends and family to tell me their passwords. I had come to believe that these tiny personalized codes get a bum rap. Yes, I understand why passwords are universally despised: the strains they put on our memory, the endless demand to update them, their sheer number. I hate them, too. But there is more to passwords than their annoyance. In our authorship of them, in the fact that we construct them so that we (and only we) will remember them, they take on secret lives. Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.

Source: NYTimes.com.

November 13, 2014

‘Serial’ and White Reporter Privilege

If Serial were a newspaper story or even a traditional magazine feature, the identities of all three could exist alone as facts; the reader could decide how much weight to place upon them. But Serial is an experiment in two old forms: the weekly radio crime show, and the confessional true-crime narrative, wherein the journalist plays the role of the protagonist. The pretense of objectivity is stripped away: Koenig emerges as the subject as the show’s drama revolves not so much around the crime, but rather, her obsessions with it. Syed and Lee’s lives, then, are presented through Koenig’s translations of two distinct cultures.

Source: The Awl.

October 23, 2014

How American parenting is killing the American marriage

In the 21st century, most Americans marry for love. We choose partners who we hope will be our soulmates for life. When children come along, we believe that we can press pause on the soulmate narrative, because parenthood has become our new priority and religion. We raise our children as best we can, and we know that we have succeeded if they leave us, going out into the world to find partners and have children of their own. Once our gods have left us, we try to pick up the pieces of our long neglected marriages and find new purpose.

Source: Quartz.

October 20, 2014

How One Boy With Autism Became B.F.F.’s With Apple’s Siri

Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked. And I was grateful. Now, when my head was about to explode if I had to have another conversation about the chance of tornadoes in Kansas City, Mo., I could reply brightly: “Hey! Why don’t you ask Siri?”

Source: NYTimes.com.

October 19, 2014

The Gentleman Who Made Scholar

the nature of academic papers presented some opportunities for more powerful ranking, particularly making use of the citations typically included in academic papers. Those same scholarly citations had been the original inspiration for PageRank, the technique that had originally made Google search more powerful than its competitors. Scholar was able to use them to effectively rank articles on a given query, as well as to identify relationships between papers.

After a number of tests and tweaks, the team showed the prototype to Larry Page. The co-founder’s reaction: “Why is this not live yet?” On November 18, 2004, Scholar was indeed live.

Source: Backchannel — Medium.

September 13, 2014

The case for open borders

“What would you think about a law that said that blacks couldn’t get a job without the government’s permission, or women couldn’t get a job without the government’s permission, or gays or Christians or anyone else?” George Mason economist Bryan Caplan asks. It’s a pretty easy question. Obviously, such a law is discriminatory on its face, serves no rational purpose, and is unacceptable in a liberal democracy. But Caplan continues: “So why, exactly, is it that people who are born on the wrong side of the border have to get government permission just to get a job?”

Source: Vox.

September 1, 2014

Why social media won’t transform our politics

But how committed are these new activists, and how effective can they be if all they do is sign an online petition while sitting at their desks? Don’t social media exacerbate the fundamental problem of mobilization, which is free-riding, thereby undermining the long-term impact of social activism on the deep structures of power, inequality and violence?

Source: openDemocracy.

September 1, 2014

White privilege is the best medicine

We don’t need more evidence about the existence of these unacceptable racial disparities and discrimination. When you look at the fullness of a life, and all the points at which that life intersects with the health system and then how much worse off black people fare every time, you can see there is a violence and injustice here.

Source: Vox.

August 24, 2014

Self-Segregation: Why It’s So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson

The chief obstacle to having an intelligent, or even intelligible, conversation across the racial divide is that on average white Americans live in communities that face far fewer problems and talk mostly to other white people.

Source: The Atlantic.

August 16, 2014

What I Did After Police Killed My Son

After police in Kenosha, Wis., shot my 21-year-old son to death outside his house ten years ago — and then immediately cleared themselves of all wrongdoing — an African-American man approached me and said: “If they can shoot a white boy like a dog, imagine what we’ve been going through.”

Source: POLITICO Magazine.

August 14, 2014

Why Not a Three-Day Week?

While feeling in control and working fewer hours may seem like distinct issues, they are fundamentally connected. When we own more of our time, we feel like we’re in charge of our lives and our schedules, which makes us happier and, ultimately, better at what we do. Our health and happiness also increases in the course of our lifetimes and, with it, our value to the workplace and to society as a whole. Additionally, we may finally recover from chronic sleep deprivation, which is one of the greatest health hazards currently facing the average employee. Sleep quality, in turn, translates to better cognition, clearer thinking, and increased productivity. Instead of the usual vicious circle, we get a virtuous one.

Source: The New Yorker.

August 13, 2014

How to Be Polite

Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

Because nearly everyone in the world believes their job to be difficult. I once went to a party and met a very beautiful woman whose job was to help celebrities wear Harry Winston jewelry. I could tell that she was disappointed to be introduced to this rumpled giant in an off-brand shirt, but when I told her that her job sounded difficult to me she brightened and spoke for 30 straight minutes about sapphires and Jessica Simpson.

Source: Medium.

August 9, 2014

Why Do Poor People ‘Waste’ Money On Luxury Goods?

At the heart of these incredulous statements about the poor decisions poor people make is a belief that we would never be like them. We would know better. We would know to save our money, eschew status symbols, cut coupons, practice puritanical sacrifice to amass a million dollars.

Source: Talking Points Memo.

August 9, 2014

How Men’s Clothes Should Fit

If you’re like most men, you’ve probably been wearing clothes your entire life that are too large for you.

“Most guys are used to wearing baggy clothes,” Veeral Rathod, CEO of the men’s clothing e-retailer J. Hilburn, told us in a recent interview. “They want to dress properly and they want to present themselves well, but they just don’t know how.”

Source: Business Insider.