Turns out 24 straight hours of travel means a lot of time for reading great articles.
(Sent while very tired / jetlagged, without the energy to do my typical light proofreading...sorry in advance for any errors.)
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The Beating Heart / Washington Post Magazine
Another superb piece by Gene Weingarten:
I stared disconsolately at three crumpled slips of loose-leaf paper. Separately, they had been drawn out of an old green fedora by three strangers in a restaurant, and together they created an ordinary day chosen at random: “December,” “28” and “1986.” That was the date I was going to be researching for the next six years. It was for a book to be titled “One Day,” which would explore whether, in the insistent gyre of human experience, there even is such a thing as “an ordinary day.” The date seemed intuitively problematic: It was a Sunday, infamous among journalists for being the sleepiest news day of the week, and it was the week between Christmas and New Year’s, infamous among journalists for being the sleepiest news week of the year. And it was a year that didn’t seem all that historically memorable. Bad day, bad week, bad year. One of my first discoveries involved an event that occurred in the early morning of that day, in suburban Washington. A woman received a new heart in a transplant performed by a surgical team that had never tried that operation before: It had worked only on corpses, in macabre rehearsals in a hospital morgue. That was all I knew, at the start.
One year ago, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and never walked out. In the months that followed, the facts of his disappearance and murder would emerge in fragments: an international high-tech spy game, a diabolical plot, a gruesome killing, and a preposterous cover-up reaching the highest levels of the Saudi government, aided by the indifference and obstinacy of the White House. Eventually those fragments came to comprise a macabre mosaic. This June, the United Nations special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions issued a 100-page report detailing the Khashoggi affair. The report, the product of five months of independent investigation spanning six countries, added to the thrum of international indignation about Khashoggi's murder. But so far it has largely failed to galvanize it into action. Here is the story, as we know it, illustrated by Chris Koehler and told as a nonfiction narrative by the author Evan Ratliff. This account draws on our own reporting, the UN report, hundreds of news accounts and video interviews — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Daily Sabah, a Turkish outlet, in particular — and public testimony. We're retelling it because Jamal Khashoggi's story should be heard in full. And because even if you think you know what happened, you may not know how or why. [...] It was easy to forget, later, that he was a man in love. That was the Jamal Khashoggi who arrived on a flight into Istanbul, early on the morning of October 2, 2018. He was a few days short of 60 and divorced, a voluntary exile from his native Saudi Arabia living a lonely existence in Virginia. His tall frame carried an unsubtle paunch, and his hair had thinned out to the sides. The graying of his beard was nearly complete, covering an owlish face with eyes that could simultaneously betray easy mirth and deep sadness. An internationally acclaimed journalist writing for The Washington Post, he was considered brilliant by his peers. But he spent most of his days struggling under the burden of what he'd left behind, writing in hopes of breaking the world's indifference to the creeping repression in his home country. He'd grown dismayed to see its architect, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — known in the West as MBS — fêted by Washington and Silicon Valley as a dynamic reformer, while his friends and colleagues back home languished in prison for speaking out. His mission, he had come to believe, was to speak for them. But on that fall morning in Istanbul, Khashoggi stepped off the plane with an entirely different purpose.
A flimsy raft, more than 100 souls, and three teenage heroes—or are they pirates?
It was the first day of school, so Don Brink was behind the wheel of his bus, its yellow paint glistening in the drizzling dawn. Wearing jeans and a John Deere cap, he turned the radio to an oldies station and, with hands callused thick by 50 years of farming, steered the vehicle toward the edge of town. He stopped in front of familiar farmhouses surrounded by fields of soy and corn, where blond children boarded the bus, chatting in English. “Morning,” the 71-year-old Vietnam veteran said. But then Brink headed back into town, past the meatpacking plant that was the area’s main employer and into the neighborhood he called Little Mexico, even though most of its residents were Central American. This was the Worthington he did not know — the Worthington he resented. At the corner of Dover Street and Douglas Avenue, a handful of Hispanic children were waiting. At Milton Avenue, there were a few more. And at Omaha Avenue, a dozen students climbed aboard — none of them white. Brink said nothing. “I say ‘good morning’ to the kids who’ll respond to me,” he said later. “But this year there are a lot of strange kids I’ve never seen before.”
Pixar is always trying to push the envelope of animation and filmmaking, going beyond what they’ve done before. For the studio’s latest release, Toy Story 4, the filmmakers worked to inject as much reality into the animation as possible and to make it feel like a live-action movie shot with real cameras using familiar lenses and standard techniques. In the latest episode of Nerdwriter, Evan Puschak shares how they did that.
Spiders have no wings, but they can take to the air nonetheless. They’ll climb to an exposed point, raise their abdomens to the sky, extrude strands of silk, and float away. This behavior is called ballooning. It might carry spiders away from predators and competitors, or toward new lands with abundant resources. But whatever the reason for it, it’s clearly an effective means of travel. Spiders have been found two-and-a-half miles up in the air, and 1,000 miles out to sea. It is commonly believed that ballooning works because the silk catches on the wind, dragging the spider with it. But that doesn’t entirely make sense, especially since spiders only balloon during light winds. Spiders don’t shoot silk from their abdomens, and it seems unlikely that such gentle breezes could be strong enough to yank the threads out—let alone to carry the largest species aloft, or to generate the high accelerations of arachnid takeoff. Darwin himself found the rapidity of the spiders’ flight to be “quite unaccountable” and its cause to be “inexplicable.” But Erica Morley and Daniel Robert have an explanation. The duo, who work at the University of Bristol, has shown that spiders can sense the Earth’s electric field, and use it to launch themselves into the air.
Ten years ago this month, the country was captivated by a bizarre spectacle in Fort Collins that was colloquially dubbed the Balloon Boy Hoax. Although Richard Heene, the so-called Balloon Boy’s father, pleaded guilty to charges related to the prank, it was never fully clear whether it was the scam that police made it out to be. For the first time, we reveal the true story.
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A Love Story Completely Told Through Fake Advertisements / Digg
Told in 30-second chapters that look like real ads for fake products, this excellent short from writer/director Ben Callner examines love and advertising in a hilarious, touching and inventive way.
When my brother died, I was too shattered to write his obituary. There is little record of his 29 years of life; it simply vanished. When I type “Yush Gupta,” Google autofills “Yush Gupta death,” a brutal reminder that even on the internet, a space where nothing is forgotten, Yush is a mirage, slowly disappearing. Despite his long list of accomplishments as a computer programmer and engineer, when I complete the search there is little left of Yush: a GoFundMe started by my parents, an entry from the Toronto funeral home where his body was cremated, an article in his college alumni magazine. On the internet, a place where Yush lived his life, he has been reduced to one single fact: He died young. I’m not exactly sure when he died. My father called me with the news on Saturday, November 4, 2017, but Yush was in Italy, which is six hours ahead. I later learned that a blood clot shot up from his leg and blocked his lungs; a pulmonary embolism. He likely fell to the floor alone in a small room in Milan, gasping for air through excruciating pain, texting his caretaker to call an ambulance. Yush drew his last breaths surrounded by Italian EMS workers who didn’t know his name, in a country that was not his. Pulmonary embolisms are rare in young people. In the United States, they are even less common among Asian-Americans than white people. Yush was a lifelong long-distance runner; he was healthy and active. Statistically, he was among those least likely to suffer a pulmonary embolism. And yet, despite the statistics, that is what ended his life. In the weeks following his death, I learned that his death did not result from a natural cause, nor was it suicide; it was an incident brought on by forces beyond his control, but resulted from risks that were entirely preventable. But that was not the only mystery I uncovered about Yush’s life: While I had always worried about his financial stability, in the days and months following his death, I would learn that he had become wealthy from bitcoin investments. I learned that he was secretly building a technology that he believed could revolutionize the world. And I learned that he had written an anonymous essay about our family published in a Men’s Rights anthology, in which he lamented over a society that values the “emotional pain” of women over the burden men have to provide for them. He complained that women were inferior in logical ability, and that women in abusive relationships are not held accountable for their decision to stay, while pressures upon men are overlooked and ignored. The truth is, though I knew Yush better than perhaps anyone, I barely understood the man he had become. In recent years, we had become estranged due to our oppositional values: I became a vocal, ardent feminist. He saw feminists as extremists who were deeply hateful towards men.
Las Vegas' death investigators witnessed the atrocities of the Route 91 shooting, then had to grapple with the difficult task of healing themselves.
The teenager married too many times to count / BBC
A BBC investigation has uncovered a secret world of sexual exploitation of children and young women by religious figures. Clerics are grooming vulnerable girls in Iraq and offering them for sex, using a controversial religious practice known as “pleasure marriage”.
But hearing voices isn't necessarily a sign of psychosis. In fact, according to the authors of a recent study published in the journal Brain, enhanced attention-related nerual pathways might cause these illusory sounds. People hear them because their brains may be especially primed to pick up speech.
How much of the company’s problem was solved when Adam Neumann stepped down? At this point, I would say about none. He and SoftBank entered into a suicide pact, and he jumped out of the plane before it hit the ground. He pulled the rip cord. He has exited the suicide pact with $740 million, and everyone else gets to ride this out to its logical end, which will likely be a bankruptcy file. The company has enough cash to get through Q1. It’s spilling $700 million a quarter. SoftBank — to be clear, SoftBank is the only firm in the world that will put money into this thing right now — has to do one of two things. They either have to go back to their limiteds and say, “We’re probably putting good money after bad,” and create an argument for why there’s still value there, or they have to go [bankrupt]. [...] What does the WeWork fallout look like? There will be some pain at SoftBank, but they’re all billionaires. They’ll be fine. It’s embarrassing for Masayoshi Son, but big deal. MBS’s Saudi Arabia investment fund? Couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people. It’s the latent collateral damage that is the real hurt. It’s the employees. It’s a lot of landlords who are going to incur a lot of pain because in exchange for ten-year leases, they put in huge improvements for these spaces which they won’t be able to recapture if WeWork moves out. [...] If you want to talk about real toll here — the real toll is that there’s somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 WeWork employees who took a job and a big part of their compensation — the reason they took these jobs was because of equity value. And it’s impossible not to count your money 30 days out from an IPO. It’s impossible to tell your husband to not start looking at houses. It’s impossible not to tell your parents, “Let’s think about going on a family cruise together.” It’s impossible not to start thinking that you can afford that new car. $47 billion? We’re probably talking about several thousand people who were going to be millionaires. Now most of them are probably thinking that in the next 30 days there’s a one-in-two chance I don’t have health insurance. You want to talk about the sheer human toll? The notion that Adam Neumann was fired? My God, he got on the last helicopter out of Saigon.
What the future of the American ballpark should look like / SB Nation
I wouldn't have thought this would be excellent, but it actually was excellent:
This is personal for me: I’m an architect myself, and my love of sports and stadiums is a big reason why. From the moment I started following baseball in earnest, right when Cleveland moved to that new ballpark and became one of the most exciting teams in baseball, I believed a great stadium design could make a great team. I’d fill notebooks with sketches of audacious designs I believed could change the game forever. (I could have saved baseball in Montreal, if only they’d listened to a teen from Ohio.) When I did a career-shadowing trip to an architecture firm as a high-school freshman and saw not-yet-public drawings for what would become Milwaukee’s Miller Park, I was hooked. As of yet, no one has asked me to design a ballpark. But after seeing stadium after stadium be built around slight variations on the same model, I’m taking matters into my own hands. This is a design manifesto for how we can face the future, tear apart the old assumptions, and re-envision a stadium for a new world.
Peter Rahal started RxBar out of his mom’s kitchen — then sold it for $600 million. Here’s life on the other side of the entrepreneurial fantasy.
The nighttime events are among initial results from the InSight lander, which also found hints that the red planet may host a global reservoir of liquid water deep below the surface.
Why is it catching on? Could it really mean the end of Trump’s presidency? And why is so much of American politics about Ukraine these days? [...] 5) So is what Trump did illegal? As with many legal issues involving the president, this is disputed, and there are few clear precedents about it. University of California Irvine law professor Rick Hasen has argued that Trump may have broken campaign finance law, by soliciting a “thing of value” for his 2020 campaign — the Biden investigation — from a foreign source. The intelligence community inspector general also submitted a criminal referral on that topic to the Justice Department. But in mid-September, DOJ’s Criminal Division decided there was no need a full criminal investigation of Trump on this topic, arguing that the value of the Biden investigation couldn’t be quantified.
The Oval Office meeting this past March began, as so many had, with President Trump fuming about migrants. But this time he had a solution. As White House advisers listened astonished, he ordered them to shut down the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico — by noon the next day. The advisers feared the president’s edict would trap American tourists in Mexico, strand children at schools on both sides of the border and create an economic meltdown in two countries. Yet they also knew how much the president’s zeal to stop immigration had sent him lurching for solutions, one more extreme than the next. Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him.
The fact that Amazon held its annual hardware event the same day as the keynote for Facebook’s Oculus Connect conference is almost certainly a coincidence. It was, though, a happy one, at least as far as Stratechery is concerned: these two events, wildly disparate in terms of presentation and content, have more in common than it might seem. [...] Zuckerberg is, in effect, saying that he finds it shocking that Facebook Home didn’t succeed. I think the reasons were pretty clear, and a lack of distribution or high-end hardware was not the primary problem. The fact of the matter is that while social connection on our phones is important — perhaps the most important — it is not the only job we ask phones to do. That is why Facebook is an app and not a platform, and that’s ok! Apps, particularly those of Facebook’s scale and advertising prowess, are fantastic businesses. And apps shouldn’t be platforms. Amazon, on the other hand, seems to have learned the right lessons from its mobile failures; what is notable about the company’s approach to Alexa is that it leverages and learns from the mobile era. Alexa benefits from Amazon’s investments in data centers and networking, interacts with both iOS and Android to the greatest extent possible, and is roughly inline with Amazon’s overall business — making buying things that much more convenient. Alexa is an operating system for the home, and perhaps beyond.
As life unraveled, a skilled wine steward joined the swelling ranks of homeless people in tents across the San Francisco Bay Area.
Inside Co—Star, the app that’s feeding millennials’ astrological fascinations with mystical algorithms and an old-school approach to the zodiac
But there were more macabre scenes as well since the leadership, even if the core was stable (Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Kalinin, Voroshilov, and to some extent Mikoyan, Andreev and Zhdanov) included also the people who were, at various times, later purged and executed. For example (p. 158), “From June 1937 to April 1938, almost to his arrest, Kosior sat five times at that [leadership] table….In August 1938 Kosior’s wife was shot. And then he was arrested himself. He was taken to the higher level of punishment [probably torture]”. Overall, out of 21 people (excluding Stalin) who sat at the leadership table in 1937 and 1938, eight were shot and two killed themselves (p. 162). Thus almost half of the convives to that supreme table were killed by the main host. Not a usual occurrence.
The voters arrived from all over the country: nine of them named John, 10 who’d come from mobile homes, four who lived in South Dakota. Twenty-seven considered themselves extremely conservative; 30 said they were extremely liberal. Twenty-one were out of work and looking for it. Two came with service dogs. At least one did not tell her parents she was coming here, because talking politics is so hard at home that she didn’t want to admit she was flying to Texas to talk politics with people she didn’t know. These voters — 526 total, representative of Americans who are registered to vote — were invited to spend a weekend in a resort outside Dallas to prove that there might be a better way to disagree. And, as the furor in Washington was just beginning to build over the possible impeachment of the president, Donald Trump’s name barely came up. [...] NORC surveyed the group before the conference, and again on the same questions at the end; the results were compared with a similar panel of voters who did not get an intense dose of deliberative democracy in the interim. Voters at the event on both the left and the right appeared to edge toward the center. Democratic support receded for a $15 federal minimum wage and for “Medicare for all”; Republican support grew for rejoining the Paris climate agreement and for protecting from deportation immigrants brought to the United States as children.
Most of the plastic bottles washing up on the rocky shores of Inaccessible Island, aptly named for its sheer cliffs rising from the middle of the South Atlantic, probably come from Chinese merchant ships, a study published Monday said. The study offers fresh evidence that the vast garbage patches floating in the middle of oceans, which have sparked much consumer hand-wringing in recent years, are less the product of people dumping single-use plastics in waterways or on land, than they are the result of merchant marine vessels tossing their waste overboard by the ton.
For one, climates will change dramatically and the weather in the UK would drop to around the temperature of Alaska.
Having a critical female manager does not affect effort provision but it does lower workers’ interest in working for the firm in the future. These findings hold for both female and male workers. I show that results are consistent with gendered expectations of feedback among workers. By contrast, I find no evidence for the role of either attention discrimination or implicit gender bias.
4. Saliva is filtered blood. [...] 6. The invention of forks changed the shape of our jaws. [...] 13. The earliest recorded recipe for ice-cream was flavored with ambergris, which is a salt- and air-cured whale excretion (no one is quite sure whether it’s vomit or poo).
We can be sure that the Red Sox were determined not to let Minor get to 200 strikeouts on the season, even if it meant losing the game, because of what happened next. The Rangers grabbed the lead back in the bottom of the seventh on a pair of homers of their own, and Minor was back on the mound for the top of the eighth, sitting at a personal season-high-tying 117 pitches, in a game with no meaning whatsoever to his team’s fortunes. The Red Sox, more determined to break up the march to 200 strikeouts than they were to win a baseball game, responded by putting contact swings on the first pitches of three consecutive at-bats, leading to two feeble ground-outs and an infield pop-out, denying Minor a shot at his goal while also forgoing their own shot at victory.
Male deer fight for mates, ladybugs stuff themselves silly, the only known "hibernating" bird prepares for its slumber, and more.
Boston Dynamics programmed their Atlas robot to do a gymnastics routine. I lost it when it did that little jump split at about 13 seconds in. That looked seriously human in a deeply unsettling way.
Using surveys of 840,537 individuals from 2,232 subnational regions in 116 countries in 2008-2017 from the Gallup World Poll and the global expansion of 3G networks, we show that an increase in internet access reduces government approval and increases the perception of corruption in government. This effect is present only when the internet is not censored and is stronger when traditional media is censored.
On the last day of summer 2018 I hiked up Pleureur twice desperate for one more go at buzzing the lake. Clouds blocked the attempts and I went home hungry for another chance. I came back to Pleureur this summer. And another dream turned into reality. I am grateful for all the friends that have helped along the way.
With the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the Soviet Union kicked off the Space Race and for the first several years (arguable up until the Moon landing in ‘69), they dominated the United States. One of their “firsts” in the early years was taking the first photo of the far side of the Moon 60 years ago this month.
Because some of these faults run from northeast to southwest and others trend from northwest to southeast, they collectively create an X where they intersect beneath the site, researchers reported this week at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Phoenix. When earthquakes along these fault zones cause rocks to shift, they generate prodigious quantities of fractured rock (large stones in foreground). But these fault zones also channel meltwater from ice and snow and rainwater, thus enabling residents to more effectively collect it. They also help drain it away during intense thunderstorms, preventing short-term damage and aiding long-term preservation of the site.