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Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: Life Inside Tesla's Production Hell / Wired

Tesla had started firing hundreds of other employees for performance reasons—more than 700 would eventually be let go. Musk was scheduled to talk to the plant’s workers, to inspire them to push through what Musk had forecast would be a “manufacturing hell.” The Gigafactory needed widespread fixes; there was no way the plant would produce 5,000 batteries a week anytime soon. When he arrived, Musk began marching through the factory. He walked along the assembly line, red-faced and urgent, interrogating workers he encountered, telling them that at Tesla excellence was a passing grade, and they were failing; that they weren’t smart enough to be working on these problems; that they were endangering the company, according to someone who observed him. Employees knew about such rampages. Sometimes Musk would terminate people; other times he would simply intimidate them. One manager had a name for these outbursts—Elon’s rage firings—and had forbidden subordinates from walking too close to Musk’s desk at the Gigafactory out of concern that a chance encounter, an unexpected question answered incorrectly, might endanger a career. [...] If it has been strange to watch Musk’s wild ride via news reports and social media, it’s been even weirder inside the company. Over the past six months I’ve communicated with dozens of current and former Tesla employees, from nearly every division. They describe a thrilling and tumultuous workplace, where talented engineers and designers have done some of their proudest work but where, as one former executive put it, “everyone in Tesla is in an abusive relationship with Elon.” Almost all these employees spoke on the condition of anonymity because of nondisclosure agreements or fears of being sued or fired by Musk. (Even those with positive things to say asked for anonymity.) Most wanted the best for Tesla and said the recent profit report made them hopeful that the company is finally climbing onto firmer ground. But experience gives them pause. A large number of high-­ranking executives have left in the past two years, and Tesla has stumbled over basic tasks like delivering its cars. Working at the firm has been an agony and ecstasy, some say—sometimes toggling between both extremes in a single day.

Lunch With M. / New Yorker
From 9 years ago, but a fun read:

This fall, in an effort to promote what the managing director of the guides, a forty-eight-year-old Frenchman named Jean-Luc Naret, calls a “better understanding” of the guides’ means and methods, Michelin launched a Web site, Famously Anonymous, to explain to Americans the concept of the Michelin inspector; it has also recently opened Twitter accounts for its reviewers. But by far the most salient sign of Michelin’s new openness was its decision, this fall, to allow me to meet—and to eat with—one of its New York-based inspectors. Naret joined me and the inspector for lunch. He has a handsome, darkly tanned face, and favors designer suits with flared-collar shirts and no tie. Although the inspector was never identified to the staff, Naret, who eats often at Jean Georges and is well-known to the restaurant’s staff, considered her anonymity compromised; she would never pay an inspection visit to the restaurant again. As a precondition of our interview, I was told that certain details of the inspector’s personal life would be obscured—or not divulged to me at all. When I asked her name, the inspector laughed nervously. “No,” she said. “Let’s not even say it. Make something up.”

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150 Minutes of Hell / San Francisco Chronicle

The inside story of death and survival as the Carr Fire's tornado of flames stormed Redding — and changed firefighting in a warming California

How the IRS Was Gutted / ProPublica

An eight-year campaign to slash the agency’s budget has left it understaffed, hamstrung and operating with archaic equipment. The result: billions less to fund the government. That’s good news for corporations and the wealthy. [...] Had the billions in budget reductions occurred all at once, with tens of thousands of auditors, collectors and customer service representatives streaming out of government buildings in a single day, the collapse of the IRS might have gotten more attention. But there have been no mass layoffs or dramatic announcements. Instead, it’s taken eight years to bring the agency that funds the government this low. Over time, the IRS has slowly transformed, one employee departure at a time. The result is a bureaucracy on life support and tens of billions in lost government revenue. ProPublica estimates a toll of at least $18 billion every year, but the true cost could easily run tens of billions of dollars higher. The cuts are depleting the staff members who help ensure that taxpayers pay what they owe. As of last year, the IRS had 9,510 auditors. That’s down a third from 2010. The last time the IRS had fewer than 10,000 revenue agents was 1953, when the economy was a seventh of its current size. And the IRS is still shrinking. Almost a third of its remaining employees will be eligible to retire in the next year, and with morale plummeting, many of them will. [...] Under continued pressure from Republicans, the IRS has long made a priority of auditing people who receive that money, and as the IRS has shrunk, those audits have consumed even more resources, accounting for 36 percent of audits last year. The credit’s recipients — whose annual income is typically less than $20,000 — are now examined at rates similar to those who make $500,000 to $1 million a year. Only people with incomes above $1 million are examined much more frequently.

The Woman Who Outruns the Men, 200 Miles at a Time / New York Times

At 1:40 in the morning, running through the woods near Lake Tahoe, Courtney Dauwalter began hallucinating. She saw live puppets playing on a swing set on the side of the trail. Trees and rocks turned into faces. She was on her second night without sleep, 165 miles into a 205-mile race through the mountains, pushing her body to levels considered physically impossible not long ago, and seeing very strange things in the night. Dauwalter had been on her feet for almost 40 hours and was leading the field of 215 runners as she set her sights on a course record for September’s Tahoe 200, one in a series of very, very long ultramarathons, the latest craze among distance running’s lunatic set. Their hero is Dauwalter, a 33-year-old with a reputation for outrunning men and shattering course records. She has won 11 ultramarathons and finished second in seven other endurance races.

A College Experiment That Really Worked / New York Times

Yesterday, four social scientists released the results of a fascinating experiment designed to address this problem. The experiment was a big success — and it wasn’t even very complicated. The researchers sent personalized packets of information to hundreds of high-performing, lower-income students in Michigan. A letter inside encouraged them to apply to the University of Michigan, one of the best public universities in the country. The letter also promised that if the students were admitted, they would receive a full scholarship, including free tuition, room and board. In truth, the packet wasn’t promising anything new to most students. Those receiving it typically had good enough grades and test scores to be admitted to Michigan, as well as a family income low enough to qualify them for a full scholarship. And yet the experiment nonetheless had a huge effect. Some 67 percent of students who received the packets applied to Michigan, compared with 26 percent of a control group of similar students who did not. And 28 percent of recipients ended up enrolling in a top university (most of them at Michigan), compared with only 13 percent of the control group. Many members of the control group didn’t attend any college, despite being excellent high-school students.

The Colossus of Rhodes, the bronze wonder of the ancient world / National Geographic

Standing for a little more than 50 years in the third century B.C., Rhodes’s titanic statue of Helios made a colossal impact on Western art, history, and imagination.

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The Winners Of The 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest Will Take Your Breath Away / Digg

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