- Learning China’s Forbidden History, So They Can Censor It – lots of depressing stuff here, but it’s surprising to me China’s censorship works to the point that people don’t know about the Tiananmen Square crackdown. (also comparing Chinese censorship to Facebook/YouTube getting rid of the worst of hate speech is…not a good analogy)
- For Owners of Amazon’s Ring Security Cameras, Strangers May Have Been Watching Too – call me a curmudgeon, but don’t put cameras/speakers controlled by outside companies in your house. (yes, phones are a necessity, and you can cover laptop cameras) Not exactly the same thing, but see also: How to Stop Your Smart TV From Tracking What You Watch
- The Economics of Soaking the Rich: What does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know about tax policy? A lot. – A 70% tax rate on income above $10 million is a pretty good idea, and way less than what we had back in the 1950’s! (thanks David!)
- Tucker Carlson has sparked the most interesting debate in conservative politics – this is really really interesting. Ann Coulter calling for a wealth tax is something I never thought I would saw in this lifetime. But it’s a good thing when good ideas spread between the parties!
- The Death of the Sick Day – A few things here:
- I don’t really have a problem with people working from home if they’re feeling a little bad but not too terrible.
- You should be able to take a sick day if you’re sick. If you think you’re indispensible at your job, you’re either wrong or your company sucks. (what if you get hit by a bus?)
- Taking a “mental health day” as a sick is 100% legit and you should not feel guilty about it! If you’re worried your coworkers are going to judge you, just say you’re “not feeling well”, which is true.
- El Chapo Trial: How a Colombian I.T. Guy Helped U.S. Authorities Take Down the Kingpin – wow, that IT guy is incredibly brave, it sounds like!
- Deciphering the Patterns in Trump’s Falsehoods – interesting, if depressing.
- Portugal Dared to Cast Aside Austerity. It’s Having a Major Revival. – good for them!
- The Invisible Helping Hand: How a network of food banks learned to feed more people by embracing the free market. – cool!
- Animation: The World’s 10 Largest Economies by GDP – I was skeptical that this form of visualization would be interesting, but it actually works pretty well. China’s rise in the last 20 years is pretty dramatic! (thanks Andrew!)
- Artificial Intelligence vs. the Hackers: Machine-learning algorithms watch hackers’ behavior and adapt to their evolving tactics. – see, _this_ is a good use of machine learning! (as opposed to using it for court sentencing, etc.)
- With Tech Expansion, Austin Is Still Weird. It’s Just More Wired Now, Too. – dang it, I’ve been to the Capital Factory a few times and no one told me there was a hidden room behind a bookcase!!
- How did society shift so abruptly to a politically correct culture? Everyone was saying whatever they wanted and no one would bat an eye, but now everything’s a micro-aggression? – this is a helpful explanation. Having privilege doesn’t make you bad, but failing to acknowledge your privilege and help others without your privilege does.
- I read 1,182 emergency room bills this year. Here’s what I learned. – this project is really important, and it has directly led to bills being introduced to Congress. (with some bipartisan support!) Hooray for journalism!
- The Way American Parents Think About Chores Is Bizarre – we haven’t had to tackle allowance stuff yet, but I did read this insane article about paying your kids to get dressed, etc. and it made me angry. I am a little worried about giving our kids an allowance and also requiring them to do chores, but not making it seem like we’re paying them to do the chores.
- How Does Your State Make Electricity? – wind power is on the rise in Texas!
- The most screwed-up employee perk in America (and the man who just might fix it) – long profile of Atul Gawande’s new venture to provide healthcare to employees of Amazon/JPMorgan Chase/Berkshire Hathaway. Hopefully something good will come of this!
- Negative Mount Pleasant: A small town in Wisconsin becomes the site of a completely unprecedented experiment. – the transcript of this was riveting and did not go where I expected. Really hoping that Amazon’s whole HQ2 stunt will make people reconsider corporate welfare to entice companies to specific areas. (it is bad)
- The myth of self-control: Psychologists say using willpower to achieve goals is overhyped. Here’s what actually works. – basically, you just want to try to avoid temptation in the first place. Also that picture of a plate of macarons looks delicious and I want to eat them, but I can’t because it’s just a picture. See – it works!
- Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: Life Inside Tesla’s Production Hell – personally this isn’t shocking, but still…yikes. Also, this:
During another, he noticed that an executive was missing and called him. The man’s wife had recently given birth, and he explained that he was taking time off as she recuperated. Musk was angry. At a minimum, you should be on phone calls, Musk told the man. Having a kid doesn’t prevent you from being on the phone. (A Tesla spokesperson said that while Musk “was once upset that a particular executive did not dial into an important conference call several days after his child was born,” the company would not penalize an employee for taking paternity leave.)
…you kinda have to feel bad for the Tesla spokesperson, no?
“He would get really emotional,” this person told me—and that’s why he sometimes seemed callous, “because what’s one person’s feelings compared to the fate of billions? Elon cares a lot about humanity, but he doesn’t really care about individual people all that much.” (A Tesla spokesperson said Musk “very much cares about individual people.”)
- What made solar panels so cheap? Thank government policy. – this is a good thing to study, but I was struck by the fact that solar panels have dropped in price by 99 percent over the last 40 years! That’s amazing!
- The Reason Many Ultrarich People Aren’t Satisfied With Their Wealth – unsurprisingly, comparing your wealth to other people’s is a great way to never feel rich/content.
- Google Tweaks Email Program That Assumed An Investor Was Male – this is not even the most egregious example of this sort of thing, but there’s a reason people say “machine learning is like money laundering for bias”…
- Changes In Brain Scans Seen After A Single Season Of Football For Young Players – it’s hard to say what exactly the changes mean, but they’re probably not good.
- This ’80s PBS Show Made It Cool To Love Math – yaaaaaaay Square One! (also, loving math always was and remains cool!)
- U.S. Life Expectancy Drops Amid ‘Disturbing’ Rise In Overdoses And Suicides – a reminder that the opioid epidemic is very, very bad in the US. (deaths by drug overdose are up around 4x since 1999!)
- A charity just admitted that its program wasn’t working. That’s a big deal. – yay for evidence-based charities!
- How I changed the law with a GitHub pull request: Washington DC has made GitHub the authoritative digital source for DC laws. – cool!
- Fox News Isn’t A Normal Media Company. We Have To Stop Treating It Like One. – shunning can work!
- Disney Is Spending More on Theme Parks Than It Did on Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm Combined – to my surprise I really enjoy Disney theme parks and am looking forward to this!
- Why Doctors Hate Their Computers – a very long article that is surprisingly nuanced. It seems like the root of the problem is that doctors are used to being in control of the charts, and now control lies with management and the makers of the software, I guess? (that daylight savings time bug is inexcusable, though…)
- This Thermometer Tells Your Temperature, Then Tells Firms Where to Advertise – this is an episode of Black Mirror waiting to happen… (a reminder from the article: turn off any “smart” features on your smart TV, they’re privacy nightmares!)
- The Ivy League Becomes the Future of Football – this is encouraging, I guess, but I’m skeptical that football can ever be anything less than “pretty dangerous” without making fundamental changes to the game.
- There’s a Better Way to Elect House Members – yay ranked-choice voting! If you missed it, it was used in Maine this year and changed the result!
- It’s Easier Than Ever To Get The Recommended Amount Of Exercise – just a reminder that exercise is really good for you and you don’t have to do a lot of it and any amount is better than nothing.
- They Said Seattle’s Higher Base Pay Would Hurt Workers. Why Did They Flip? – seems like good news, generally!
- A Baseball Bat Dies, and Chopsticks Are Born – Neat! (and Christmas is coming…just saying 🙂 )
- ‘They’re Bold and Fresh’: The Millennials Disrupting Boston’s Transit System – Good for them! (and good for Boston transportation officials for being open to suggestions) (thanks David!)
- Are Pop Lyrics Getting More Repetitive? – cool investigation with nice visualizations! (although the whole scroll down and different parts of the chart appear is annoying to me…)
- ‘The SOS in my Halloween decorations’ – wow: amazing story with a surprisngly happy ending!
– After that big China hack story last time, it might be falling apart – Apple and Amazon have issued very strong denials, and no other news source has been able to confirm much. Here’s an article that casts doubt on it.
– How the US Forced China to Quit Stealing – Using a Chinese Spy – …but that’s not to say that China isn’t involved in hacking. Here’s an interesting part of the story:
Donald Trump’s trade war against China has largely been couched as a way to punish China for its years of rampant intellectual property theft. And the official documents that make a case for that war have made scant mention of the progress that the Obama administration made. “After years of unsuccessful US-China dialogs, the United States is taking action to confront China,” wrote the US Trade Representative’s office, disregarding the quite successful dialog that took place at the Omni Shoreham hotel in 2015. If the US isn’t going to acknowledge that things ever got better, what incentive does China have to keep on good behavior?
– What the tests don’t show: Doctors are surprisingly bad at reading lab results. It’s putting us all at risk. – the math here is really not that hard, but it’s important that doctors get this right! (thanks David!)
– How to save the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court faces a legitimacy crisis. Here’s what we can do about it. – I expected to roll my eyes at these suggestions, but they’re actually pretty good ideas. (I think the Supreme Court panel is the most feasible one) I used to be a big fan of lifetime appointments because it’s a very good antidote to corruption, but it makes the stakes for a Supreme Court seat so ridiculously high that I’m willing to consider other options now.
– Stumbling Toward Armageddon: Newly declassified documents show why the Americans and the Soviets came so close to war in 1973. – because Brezhnev was addicted to sleeping pills. Much like with nuclear missiles, this is why the strategy of “raising tensions to get what you want” can have catastrophic results.
– Wall Street Loves These Risky Loans. The Rest of Us Should Be Wary. – gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
– The exciting new idea hospitals have to bring down drug prices – hospitals are banding together to produce generic drugs; competition is good!
– The Faster, Cheaper, Better Way to Charge Electric Vehicles – battery swapping always seemed like a good idea, and maybe it’s coming back!
– IBM Takes Cybersecurity Training on the Road – I like escape rooms and I don’t know much about cybersecurity but I’m willing to learn if I can get in this sweet truck!
– Fight Night With LeBron: Laker fans get their first glimpse of L.A.’s newest megastar, in one of the most chaotic home openers in memory. – I’ve always been a minor LeBron fan, but I think this article converted me to a major LeBron fan, and I hope the Lakers do well except when they play the Rockets 🙂
– The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies – wow – this is a huge scoop and incredibly scary! (if you have hardware access to a machine there’s basically nothing you can’t do)
– Democrats Don’t Care About Policy Compromise Anymore — Just Like Republicans – this makes me really sad. Like I’ve mentioned before I’m much more of an incrementalist/pragmatist. It also seems very very difficult to pass anything meaningful without compromises.
– Why Women Can Take Years to Come Forward With Sexual Assault Allegations – I know it can seem like an “ambush” or whatever, but there are good reasons most women don’t report sexual assault when it happens to them 😦
– Amazon raises minimum wage to $15 for all US employees – yes, this is partially a political move, and partially a business move, but even though the reasons aren’t altruistic this is an unambiguously good thing. Yay!
– How AI changed organ donation in the US – I was vaguely aware of this, but this is a really cool application of an algorithm to save lives!
– Which Foreign Aid Programs Work? The U.S. Runs A Test — But Won’t Talk About It – interesting, although this is aggravating:
“In this country we don’t like giving poor people money,” he says. There’s “an inherent sense” that they can’t be trusted to spend it wisely. No matter, Carbonell adds, that the research strongly indicates that poor people don’t spend cash aid on vices like tobacco and alcohol.
“We don’t want to be seen as just giving handouts to poor people,” he says. “And that is a very deeply ingrained fear at USAID.”
– What Happens When Gig-Economy Workers Become Employees – some like it, some don’t.
– U.S. officials suspect Russia in mystery ‘attacks’ on diplomats in Cuba, China – this is an interesting twist.
– A Map of the World Where the Sizes of Countries Are Determined by Population – cartograms are good and useful!
– I lost my infant son to a drunk driver. This change could save countless lives. – lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration limit would save lives!
– The Surprising Reason that There Are So Many Thai Restaurants in America – whoa, didn’t know that the Thai government subsidized restaurants! Also “gastrodiplomacy” is a cool word.
– Many Ways to Be a Girl, but One Way to Be a Boy: The New Gender Rules – the rare article that’s depressing for girls _and_ boys!
– The Effectiveness of Publicly Shaming Bad Security – I’m glad we’ve reached a point where this can work!
– The Ever-Evolving Art of the Coming-Out Video – kids these days! But seriously, this:
What compels people to take this deeply intimate moment and put it out there for anyone and everyone to see? It’s simple: Many people create these videos because they want the LGBTQ people watching them to feel even a tiny bit less alone.
By focusing so much on “coming out” as a single moment, most cultural conversations misrepresent the reality of being LGBTQ. For many LGBTQ people, coming out is a never-ending experience. Regardless of how long they’ve been out, or how many people in their lives they’re out to, most will never stop having to say “Actually, I’m—” or “Yes, I’m—” or “No, my pronouns are—.” It’s not something they do just once, twice, or even ten times; it’s a lifelong reality. There is always a first time you come out, but there is not a last time.
rang very true for me. Good for them!
Their reams of data converged on a breathtaking statistic: Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by about 50 percent.
Nationwide, the researchers estimated in an interview, this effect drove one-tenth of all anti-refugee violence.
The uptick in violence did not correlate with general web use or other related factors; this was not about the internet as an open platform for mobilization or communication. It was particular to Facebook.
is incredibly damning.
– 8 Restaurant Chains Agree To End ‘No-Poach’ Agreements Under Threat Of Lawsuit – good for Washington state; this really ought to be illegal, as it’s just a way for owners to limit wages for workers. Of course high-tech companies in Silicon Valley were also guilty of this a few years ago. (also I’m not a huge fan of the word “poaching” for this as employees are people that can leave a job if they want, not animals…)
– Walt Disney World Workers Reach Deal for $15 Minimum Wage by 2021 – this is why unions are important!
– Life-Threatening Heart Attack Leaves Teacher With $108,951 Bill – he asked from his hospital bed whether his health insurance would cover this, and was told yes. This was the hospital where both my children were born, and the teacher apparently lives down the street from an acquaintance of ours. Kudos to NPR for this series (and the hospital slashed his bill after all of this publicity), but geez, what are you supposed to do as a patient? Note that Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic congressman from south Austin, proposed a bill to end this surprise billing but it went nowhere 😦
– Stacking concrete blocks is a surprisingly efficient way to store energy – a giant mechanical battery, basically!
– The Untold Story of NotPetya, the Most Devastating Cyberattack in History – long article, but interesting. I didn’t reaiize it was so devastating, and caused $10 billion in damages. (although I would maybe take that estimate with a grain of salt…)
– Meet a new kind of book, designed for the age of Peak TV – I’m not sure how I feel about this; I like serialized TV, but I also like books as they are right now. Maybe I’ll give one of these a shot?
– Exclusive: Fitbit’s 150 billion hours of heart data reveal secrets about health – interesting data! I guess resting heart rate is a decent proxy for heart health? And it’s pretty cool how you can see the author’s resting heart rate line up with life events…
– Cuban ‘acoustic attack’ report on US diplomats flawed, say neurologists and Microwave Weapons Are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers and Cuba’s “Sonic Attack” on the U.S. Embassy Could Have Been Merely Sounds Emitted by a Listening Device and as a layman the sense I’m getting is “people don’t agree what this is right now”.
– Gatwick flight information screens fail – hooray for whiteboards!
– Botched CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents – yikes…OPSEC is hard, but this seems like a huge screwup.