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

Jerry and Marge Go Large / Huffington Post
This piece was everywhere a couple weeks ago -- and for good reason. It's a great story:

One year, when he and Marge went to a used-book sale at a library to find gifts for their family, Jerry’s main purchase was a stack of college math textbooks. When their daughter Dawn asked why, he replied, “To keep my skills sharp.” So perhaps it was only fitting that at age 64, Jerry found himself contemplating that most alluring of puzzles: the lottery. He was recently retired by then, living with Marge in a tiny town called Evart and wondering what to do with his time. After stopping in one morning at a convenience store he knew well, he picked up a brochure for a brand-new state lottery game. Studying the flyer later at his kitchen table, Jerry saw that it listed the odds of winning certain amounts of money by picking certain combinations of numbers. That’s when it hit him. Right there, in the numbers on the page, he noticed a flaw—a strange and surprising pattern, like the cereal-box code, written into the fundamental machinery of the game. A loophole that would eventually make Jerry and Marge millionaires, spark an investigation by a Boston Globe Spotlight reporter, unleash a statewide political scandal and expose more than a few hypocrisies at the heart of America’s favorite form of legalized gambling. [...] About a week before a roll-down drawing, they would drive the 700 miles from Michigan, cutting across Canada to save time, listening to James Patterson novels on tape. They’d book a room at a Red Roof Inn in South Deerfield, and in the mornings, they’d go to work: Jerry to Jerry’s Place; Marge to Billy’s. They started at 5:30 a.m., before the stores opened to the public, and went straight through to 6 p.m., printing as many tickets as the terminals would handle, rubber-banding them in stacks of $5,000, and throwing the stacks into duffel bags."

When Winter Never Ends / ESPN
From the incomparable Wright Thompson:

Ichiro is a meticulous man, held in orbit by patterns and attention to detail. This place specializes in beef tongue, slicing it thin by hand and serving it raw alongside hot cast-iron skillets. They do one thing perfectly, which appeals to Ichiro. Tonight he's got dark jeans rolled up to the calf, each leg even, and a gray T-shirt under a white button-down with a skinny tie. His hair looks darker than in some recent photos, maybe the lighting, maybe a dye job. Either way, not even a 44-year-old future Hall of Famer is immune from the insecurities and diminishments that come with time. This winter is the most insecure and diminished he's been. He doesn't have a professional baseball contract in America or Japan. His agent, John Boggs, has called, texted and emailed teams so often that one MLB general manager now calls Boggs "the elephant hunter," because he's stalking his prey. Boggs recently sent an email to all 30 teams. Only one wrote back to decline. Ichiro hasn't spoken to Boggs once this offseason, locked in on what he and his aging body can control. [...] Later they turn nostalgic and talk about the past. He started training every day in the third grade and has never stopped. Once during his career he took a vacation, a trip to Milan that he hated. This past October, Marlins infielder Dee Gordon came to get something at the clubhouse after the season. He heard the crack of a bat in the cages and found Ichiro there, getting in his daily swings. "I really just hope he keeps playing," Gordon says with a chuckle, "because I don't want him to die. I believe he might die if he doesn't keep playing. What is Ichiro gonna do if he doesn't play baseball?" Former teammates all have favorite Ichiro stories, about how he carries his bats in a custom humidor case to keep out moisture, how in the minors he'd swing the bat for 10 minutes every night before going to sleep, or wake up some mornings to swing alone in the dark from 1 to 4 a.m. All the stories make the same point: He has methodically stripped away everything from his life except baseball. Former first baseman Mike Sweeney, who got close to Ichiro in Seattle, tells one about getting a call from an old teammate who'd had an off-day in New York. You're not gonna believe this, the guy began. He'd brought along his wife and they walked through Central Park, thrilled to be together in such a serene place. Far off in the distance, at a sandlot field with an old backstop that looked leftover from the 1940s, they saw a guy playing long toss. The big leaguer did the quick math and figured the distant stranger was throwing 300 feet on the fly. Curious, he walked closer. The guy hit balls into the backstop, the powerful shotgun blast of real contact familiar to any serious player. He became impressed, so he got even closer, close enough to see. The man working out alone in Central Park was Ichiro.

----- 3 stars -----

I Got a Story to Tell / The Players' Tribune
Steve Francis, in his own words:

You gotta understand something about my story, and it’s really gonna seem impossible to anybody under the age of 20. Because pretty much all these NBA dudes now came up the same way. Prep school. AAU. Free shoes. Free meals. One-and-done. And that’s a good thing. Good for them, man. But me? Four years before I was on that plane with Hakeem telling me we’re going shopping for cashmere suits together — four years before I was about to go play against Gary Payton — I was on the corner of Maple Ave in Takoma Park, Maryland, selling drugs outside the Chinese joint. My mother had passed away. My father was in a federal penitentiary. We had 18 people living in one apartment. I had dropped out of high school. No scholarships. No GED. No nothing. This is ’95! I’m watching Allen Iverson killing it for Georgetown just up the road from me, and I’m standing on the corner all day building my little drug empire, just trying not to get robbed, and then at night I’m playing pickup ball in the basement of a firehouse. Not a lot of people know my real story. Sometimes I even ask myself, “Man, how the hell did you make it onto that airplane with Dream?” I’m gonna tell you.

Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier / New Yorker

Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focussing on Russia. For three years, in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service’s Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian, and widely considered to be an expert on the country. He’d also advised on nation-building in Iraq. As a British citizen, however, he was not especially knowledgeable about American politics. Peter Fritsch, a co-founder at Fusion who has worked closely with Steele, said of him, “He’s a career public-service officer, and in England civil servants haven’t been drawn into politics in quite the same way they have here. He’s a little naïve about the public square.” And so Steele, on that January night, was stunned to learn that U.S. politicians were calling him a criminal.

The Lonely Life of a Professional YouTuber / Vice

You might have a million subscribers online, but the trade-off is spending most of your time alone, in front of a computer – as WillNE knows all too well. [...] For a seven to eight-minute video, Will spends around nine to ten hours doing research, two hours writing a script and then 45 minutes of filming. Research usually involves trawling through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. "My favourite type of craic is on Twitter, but when you're taking the mick out of stuff you find the real weirdos on Facebook or the dark corners of YouTube." What is research and what is procrastination is constantly up for debate. Is watching news story after news story about a man cementing his head into a microwave procrastination? Not if he can turn it into a ten-minute video with four ads. "How long do you spend on the internet?" I ask. "I'd say, actively, over 12 hours per day. I don't take days off. And even when I do, I just wish I was working. In the morning I get up, check my phone, then I commute three yards to my desk." When I ask about the last time he cooked a meal, he cringes and asks if tomato pasta counts, before admitting he survives mostly on the Deliveroo app. He used to love reading, but tells me he hasn’t read a book in six or seven years, and doesn’t know if he could anymore. "Now all I read is either 140 or 280 characters of pure drivel. I don’t know what type of tests you’d need to do, but I think it’s changed my brain a lot." "So," I say, "I guess your social life is…" But he doesn’t let me finish. "Non-existent," says Will. "I spend six days a week in here," he explains with a dry grin. "That's a lie. It's seven."

The Perfect Man Who Wasn't / The Atlantic

Among all the duds—the desperate and depressed and not-quite-divorced—a 45-year-old man named Richie Peterson stood out. He was a career naval officer, an Afghanistan veteran who was finishing his doctorate in political science at the University of Minnesota. When Missi “liked” his profile, he sent her a message right away and called her that afternoon. They talked about their kids (he had two; she had three), their divorces, their sobriety. Richie told her he was on vacation in Hawaii, but they planned to meet up as soon as he got back. [...] A few months into their relationship, she missed a shift at work and got fired. Richie leaped into provider mode. He told her that he’d take care of her bills for the next four months, that she should relax and take stock of her life and spend time with the kids. Maybe he could put her and the girls on his university insurance. Maybe, he told her, with the benevolent confidence of a wealthy man, she wouldn’t have to work. The offer wasn’t all that appealing to Missi—“I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom again,” she says—but she took it as a sign that things were getting serious. [...] As she read, Missi began to feel sick, as if her body was having trouble physically assimilating the idea that her boyfriend was not a scholar and war hero, but rather a serial con man. And those credit cards kept nagging at her: “There is someone else out there who is being completely fricking screwed right now,” she remembers thinking. It took a bit of detective work, but eventually Missi tracked Linda down on Facebook and sent her a message. “You’re probably going to think I’m crazy,” it began.

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

This Is What Happens When Bitcoin Miners Take Over Your Town / Politico
To get rich in crypto you just need an idea, and a coin / Wired

Hands on the wheel, eyes squinting against the winter sun, Lauren Miehe eases his Land Rover down the main drag and tells me how he used to spot promising sites to build a bitcoin mine, back in 2013, when he was a freshly arrived techie from Seattle and had just discovered this sleepy rural community. The attraction then, as now, was the Columbia River, which we can glimpse a few blocks to our left. Bitcoin mining—the complex process in which computers solve a complicated math puzzle to win a stack of virtual currency—uses an inordinate amount of electricity, and thanks to five hydroelectric dams that straddle this stretch of the river, about three hours east of Seattle, miners could buy that power more cheaply here than anywhere else in the nation. Long before locals had even heard the words “cryptocurrency” or “blockchain,” Miehe and his peers realized that this semi-arid agricultural region known as the Mid-Columbia Basin was the best place to mine bitcoin in America—and maybe the world.

ICOs are also known for the parties. A company called Karma celebrated the launch of its token with a jamboree on a rooftop in Los Angeles, complete with dancers in bikinis and pellucid angel wings. A boat party in Kiev featured young women in skimpy schoolgirl uniforms, the name of a new token emblazoned on their breasts. In South Korea, ICO launches are sometimes compared to giant megachurch masses. [...] EOS could well become the highest-netting ICO ever: launched in June 2017, and scheduled to go on for 341 days, by day 197 (time of publication), it had crossed $1 billion. Not one penny of that will actually go to fund EOS’ open-source code for a planned new blockchain, which is still in development. “We had all the money we needed to build the software,” CEO Brendan Blumer told me. “All the money that comes from the token sale will be’s profit.” In October, Blumer said would invest $1 billion in projects running on the EOS platform, if and when it is launched— which is not guaranteed: itself is not planning to launch a platform, leaving it to enthusiasts to create EOS-powered networks. It is unclear whether EOS tokens will have any application on a hypothetical community-launched platform: if you go by the legalese on the EOS website, tokens “do not have any rights, uses, purpose, attributes, functionalities or features”.

Monica Lewinsky: Emerging from "The House of Gaslight" in the Age of #MeToo / Vanity Fair

On the 20th anniversary of the Starr investigation, which introduced her to the world, the author reflects on the changing nature of trauma, the de-evolution of the media, and the extraordinary hope now provided by the #MeToo movement. [...] It was Christmas Eve 2017. My family and I were about to be seated at a quaint restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village. We had just come from Gramercy Park—on the one night each year when the exclusive park (accessible only to nearby residents with special keys) opens its gates to outsiders. There had been carols. People had sung with abandon. In short, it was a magical night. I was happy. [...] At the same moment I stepped toward the Man in the Hat and began to ask, “You’re not . . . ?,” he stepped toward me with a warm, incongruous smile and said, “Let me introduce myself. I’m Ken Starr.” An introduction was indeed necessary. This was, in fact, the first time I had met him. I found myself shaking his hand even as I struggled to decipher the warmth he evinced. After all, in 1998, this was the independent prosecutor who had investigated me, a former White House intern; the man whose staff, accompanied by a group of F.B.I. agents (Starr himself was not there), had hustled me into a hotel room near the Pentagon and informed me that unless I cooperated with them I could face 27 years in prison. This was the man who had turned my 24-year-old life into a living hell in his effort to investigate and prosecute President Bill Clinton on charges that would eventually include obstruction of justice and lying under oath—lying about having maintained a long-term extramarital relationship with me. Ken Starr asked me several times if I was “doing O.K.” A stranger might have surmised from his tone that he had actually worried about me over the years. His demeanor, almost pastoral, was somewhere between avuncular and creepy. He kept touching my arm and elbow, which made me uncomfortable. I turned and introduced him to my family. Bizarre as it may sound, I felt determined, then and there, to remind him that, 20 years before, he and his team of prosecutors hadn’t hounded and terrorized just me but also my family—threatening to prosecute my mom (if she didn’t disclose the private confidences I had shared with her), hinting that they would investigate my dad’s medical practice, and even deposing my aunt, with whom I was eating dinner that night. And all because the Man in the Hat, standing in front of me, had decided that a frightened young woman could be useful in his larger case against the president of the United States.

What Is the Perfect Color Worth? / New York Times

Color forecasters like Shah and his team at Pantone have tremendous influence over the visible elements of the global economy — the parts of it that are designed, manufactured and purchased — though their profession itself is all but invisible. If you’re familiar with color forecasting at all, it’s most likely thanks to a scene in the 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada,” in which the fashion-magazine mandarin Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep, explains to her young, fashion-skeptical assistant why the assistant, played by Anne Hathaway, happens to be wearing a sweater in a very particular shade of blue known as cerulean. Cerulean, Priestly explains, first showed itself a few years earlier in a collection by Oscar de la Renta and was soon adopted by a number of other influential designers before it “filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner, where you no doubt fished it out of some clearance bin,” she says.

We X-Rayed Some MLB Baseballs. Here’s What We Found. / FiveThirtyEight

To analyze possible changes to the inside of the ball, particularly the core, “ESPN Sport Science” purchased one new ball from Rawlings and seven game-used baseballs from eBay, confirming their authenticity through MLB’s authenticator program. [...] The balls were first analyzed by Dr. Meng Law, Dr. Jay Acharya and Darryl Hwang at the Keck School of Medicine at USC using a computerized tomography, or CT, scan. This test is typically used to look inside a human head or body, but in this case, it allowed Dr. Law’s team to examine the interior of the baseballs without cracking them open and destroying them. [...] Dr. Law’s team isolated the density difference to the outer (pink) layer of the core, which was, on average, about 40 percent less dense in the new group of balls.

The Hidden Taxes on Women / New York Times

Winning an election increases subsequent divorce rates for female candidates but not for men (This paper, like most of the social science literature, focuses on female-male partners.) These divorces are not the exclusive result of hard-fought campaigns. The study examined elections with very narrow margins of victories, in which winning was largely a matter of luck. These “lucky” winners also experienced higher divorce rates. Corporate success has similar consequences: Women who become chief executives divorce at higher rates than others. Another study found that the same is true in Hollywood: Winning the best actress Oscar portends a divorce, while winning the best actor award does not.

Riding Along With a Night Stringer, Chasing Car Crashes for Local News / Gizmodo

Thirty-two, but with the short-cropped hair and stubble mustache of a fresh police recruit, Adam is what’s known in local news as a stringer: the photographers and videographers that cruise the city documenting accidents, crimes, disasters of all sizes in the hopes of selling their footage to media outlets faster than their competitors. His black tactical jacket and safety vest are partly inspired by a former obsession with airsoft guns, while the big velcro PRESS patches adorning them are ripped from the playbook of Scott Lane, the LA stringer documented in the Netflix series Shot in the Dark. (Of the three companies featured in a show described by reviewers as “sleazy”, “tasteless”, “undiluted rubbernecking”, Lane’s LoudLabs is presented as the most morally bankrupt.) New York City doesn’t have any stringer companies yet, but that’s what Adam—who asked us not to use his last name in this article and goes by the moniker Adam West on social media—has been working on for the past two months with NYC911News. Inside his dark grey Ford Fusion is a utility belt of tools: two smartphones clipped above the car’s sat-nav and three dispatch radios running up to an antenna jutting out of the sunroof to increase their range, tuned to the frequencies of the FDNY, NYPD Special Operations Division (SOD), and the third swapping constantly to local precincts, the codes for which Adam has memorized. One phone displays incidents reported to the Citizen app while the other chirps out Twitter alerts from select accounts and tips through a Whatsapp group run by a Daily News photographer. The effect is overwhelming.

Growth Mindset Replicates! / Marginal Revolution

A lot of psychological research has failed to replicate, throwing cold water on the entire field. “Grit” and the “growth mindset”, the two taglines of superstar researchers Angela Duckworth and Carol Dweck, checked all the boxes for predictive failure including the requisite TED talks (Duckworth, Dweck), best-selling popular books (Duckworth, Dweck) and genius awards and, to be sure, there has been lots of puffery about the “incredible potential” and “profound impact” of grit and the growth mindset. But, to their great credit, Duckworth and Dweck have taken the replication crisis to heart and have sought to address it. Working with a large team (PI David S Yeager), the authors have tested a growth mindset intervention in 65 randomly chosen schools with over 12,000 students representative of the United States grade 9 population.

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

Slicing 10 Decks Of Cards With A Hydraulic Press Is So Much More Satisfying Than We Expected It To Be / Digg

The Hydraulic Press Channel has found a whole new lease on life by attaching big blades to its namesake.

The Little Verb at the Heart of the English Language / Curiosity

Most verbs stay basically the same in different grammatical roles. "Walk" looks like "walks" and "walked." But the word "be" looks nothing like the word "am," which looks nothing like the word "were." This unusual circumstance came to be over thousands of years and can be traced back to an ancient ancestor of English. That ancestor had three different verbs that gave rise to the different forms.

Here's What A Building Painted With Vantablack, The World's Darkest Black, Looks Like / Digg

The walls on this installation in Pyeonchang, South Korea are actually all curved, but you wouldn't know it from looking at it.

A Shaolin Monk Throwing A Needle Through A Pane Of Glass Is One Of The Craziest Things We've Seen In A While / Digg

The Slow Mo Guys can make anything look cool, but they barely needed to do anything with this one — the needle doesn't shatter the glass pane, it literally goes straight through it.

Bones Discovered in 1940 Could Have Been Amelia Earhart’s / National Geographic
Not particularly compelling, though interesting:

A new forensic analysis suggests that skeletal remains found on a remote island belonged to the famous pilot.

Lost Art Of Bending Over: How Other Cultures Spare Their Spines / NPR

In the process, our backs curve into the letter "C" — or, as Couch says, "We all look like really folded cashews." In other words, when we bend over in the U.S., most of us look like nuts! But in many parts of the world, people don't look like cashews when they bend over. Instead, you see something very different.

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