----- 4 stars -----

The Concussion Diaries: One High School Football Player’s Secret Struggle with CTE / GQ

Zac Easter knew what was happening to him. He knew why. And he knew that it was only going to get worse. So he decided to write it all down—to let the world know what football had done to him, what he'd done to his body and his brain for the game he loved. And then he shot himself.

----- 2 stars -----

BlitzFail: How Not to Go Off the Rails / Medium

Every year, the tech ecosystem witnesses once-promising startups go off the rails. The speed with which a unicorn can go from hot startup to turnaround — from filing for an IPO one week, to fighting bankruptcy the next — is head-spinning. These meltdowns make for sensational headlines, yet each instance is hardly unique. If one looks for underlying causes, some common themes and patterns emerge. In this post, I identify the top reasons why fast-growing startups go off the rails (or “BlitzFail”). The issues have three things in common: first, they are existential; they are capable of derailing a startup. Second, they are surprising; they tend to go undetected for awhile, then manifest suddenly. Third, they are common enough to occur across many startups. My hope is that outlining these pitfalls will help founders avoid them.

Deb Olin Unferth Didn’t Expect to Be Writing From the Point of View of a Chicken / Literary Hub

I didn’t initially think I would be writing from a chicken’s point of view. I was writing a novel that centered around an industry farm of a million egg-laying chickens. It was a lot of chickens, and I knew my main challenge would be to get the reader to care about them (I figured this out when so many people said to me, in essence, “Why should I care about a bunch of stupid chickens?”). I was going to have to get people to see them differently, to hear them, and it couldn’t be as a tiresome activist screed. So I read books about chickens, histories of our 8,000-year entanglement with them: the roosters etched onto ancient Egyptian walls, the homemaker hens of the Renaissance, the mechanized chickens of the 20th century. I sorted through hundreds, maybe thousands, of websites devoted to chickens—the backyard-aficionado blogs, the industry-promo sites, the commercial sites for cage systems, trucks, lighting equipment. I read about the problem of disposal—getting rid of some 60 billion chickens’ worth of byproduct a year. Think of all the chicken bones, feathers, and don’t forget chicken shit that is, piling up, sinking into the earth’s crust, fossilizing, some disintegrating, the DNA floating through waterways, descending into the silt. I visited chickens. I went to small farms and animal sanctuaries. I sat in backyards. I spent many, many hours just sitting in hen houses, watching them peck and chatter. I attended an industry egg conference and listened to scientists talk about chickens. I watched fifty hours of raw undercover footage of chickens inside factory-farm barns. I talked a farmer into letting me come to his farm of over two million hens and I studied them in their battery cages, their combs poking out through the wire. In all these places I recorded the hen voices and listened to them at night on my headphones, the cooing, the squawks. I thought about their feathery fluff. Their friendly, jaunty style. Who are you, chicken? Am I seeing you?

Paige Bueckers is the Future of Basketball / Bleacher Report

The best player in high school hoops gorges on Chick-fil-A before games, tells rivals how she's going to beat them before she does it and hasn't lost a game in two years. Get ready for the revolution.

You’re Not Listening. Here’s Why. / New York Times

There’s an unconscious tendency to tune out people you feel close to because you think you already know what they are going to say.

How Expedia Solved a $100 Million Customer Service Nightmare / Medium

In 2012, Ryan O’Neill, the head of the customer experience group for the travel website Expedia, had been sifting through some data from the company’s call center. One number he uncovered was so far-fetched as to be almost unbelievable. For every 100 customers who booked travel on Expedia — reserving flights or hotel rooms or rental cars — 58 of them placed a call afterward for help. The primary appeal of an online travel site, of course, is self-service. No calls necessary. Imagine a gas station that allowed you to swipe a credit card right at the pump — and then, about 60% of the time, something went wrong that forced you to go inside the store for help. That was Expedia. Traditionally, the call center had been managed for efficiency and customer satisfaction. Reps were trained to make the customer happy — as quickly as possible. Short calls minimized expenses. “The lens we were using was cost,” said O’Neill. “We had been trying to reduce that cost. Instead of a 10-minute call, could we make it a two-minute call? But the real question was: Why two minutes? Why any minutes?” When you spend years responding to problems, you can sometimes overlook the fact that you could be preventing them. O’Neill shared his findings with his boss, Tucker Moodey, the executive vice president of global customer operations. Together, they dug into a basic but neglected question: Why in the world are so many customers calling us? They compiled a ranking of the top reasons customers sought support.

My Wet and Wild Bitcoin Weekend On Richard Branson's Island Refuge / Vice

At an exclusive summit on Necker Island, men in flip flops plotted how to overturn the global economy.

What Worked in 1918-1919? / Marginal Revolution

Although these urban communities had neither effective vaccines nor antivirals, cities that were able to organize and execute a suite of classic public health interventions before the pandemic swept fully through the city appeared to have an associated mitigated epidemic experience. Our study suggests that nonpharmaceutical interventions can play a critical role in mitigating the consequences of future severe influenza pandemics (category 4 and 5) and should be considered for inclusion in contemporary planning efforts as companion measures to developing effective vaccines and medications for prophylaxis and treatment.

Epistemic standards for “Why did it take so long to invent X?” / The Roots of Progress

To start, there is a need for precision. For example, take the steam engine. There was a thing in antiquity called an engine, that used steam: “Hero’s engine”, also known as the aeolipile. Some people see this and conclude that “steam engines existed in the 1st century” or that there’s no reason ancient Rome couldn’t have used this widely in industrial applications. This is a mistake. The aeolipile is nothing like the steam engines of the 18th century and later: it’s a turbine, which means it is rotary, rather than using the reciprocating (back-and-forth) motion of a piston, as in Newcomen’s engine. Why does this matter? Because the aeolipile doesn’t generate enough torque for practical applications—one analysis says that Watt’s engine generated a quarter of a million times more torque.

----- 1 star -----

Remaking the Spider-Verse Trailer with Traditional Animation Techniques / Kottke

Animator Pinot Ichwandardi, designer/illustrator Dita Ichwandardi, and their three young children decided to remake some of the iconic scenes from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse trailer using traditional animation techniques. You can see some of the process and the impressive results in the video above. They drew the scenes by hand, built their own multiplane camera setup (a la Disney), and constructed a camera rig using Lego.

The Dos and Don’ts of Gift-Giving Around the World / Afar

What should you do when someone refuses a gift in Japan? And what colors should you use when wrapping a gift in Italy? We’ve got the answers.

Facts about Starbucks against free bathrooms charge them all / Marginal Revolution

In May 2018, in response to protests, Starbucks changed its policies nationwide to allow anybody to sit in their stores and use the bathroom without making a purchase. Using a large panel of anonymized cellphone location data, we estimate that the policy led to a 7.3% decline in store attendance at Starbucks locations relative to other nearby coffee shops and restaurants. This decline cannot be calculated from Starbucks’ public disclosures, which lack the comparison group of other coffee shops. The decline in visits is around 84% larger for stores located near homeless shelters. The policy also affected the intensive margin of demand: remaining customers spent 4.1% less time in Starbucks relative to nearby coffee shops after the policy enactment. Wealthier customers reduced their visits more, but black and white customers were equally deterred.

The Boxes In This Optical Illusion Are Not Actually Rotating And It's Breaking Our Brains

You'll Swear These Gears Are Moving — But It's Just An Extremely Convincing Optical Illusion

Click here to subscribe and to see previous issues.