Week of February 4, 2019

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:

No Code

Don’t make things harder than they should be:

We often perceive things that are hard to do as better. Sometimes that’s true. But as these “no code” tools advance, it will be silly to do it the old way.


DeepMind’s rate of progress is amazing:


What it’s like to live as the brother of the Parkland shooter:

Zach leaned forward. “I know you, you probably felt like you had nobody but I, I care about you. . . . I know I made it seem like when we were growing up that I hated you. . . . but truth is I just didn’t want to look like a — I didn’t want to look weak. I love you with all my heart.


Possibly the only redeemable character in the current administration…or not:

Perhaps the greatest indication that Hicks is, in fact, highly skilled at this kind of work is the way in which she has managed her own P.R. In a campaign and White House where nearly every person became the story at some point, Hicks was able to largely stay out of sight.


A name you’ve probably never heard quietly helping build a dynasty:

Entering Super Bowl LIII, that’s why the question of whether Slater is actually good at the tasks he’s supposed to perform is beside the point. He’s accepted the responsibility of carrying out football’s grimiest grunt work. Most of us are too lazy to even watch what Slater does from game to game. We associate him with the success of Belichick, Brady, and these Patriots, and—unsure of how much success stems from Slater’s actual talents—heap accolades upon accolades on him. And because Slater has received heapings upon heapings of accolades, he’s become the prime example of how to thrive as a Patriot.

Week of January 21, 2019

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:


The detail toward the end of Nico Muhly’s music diary are pretty exceptional.

The primary task, I feel, is to create a piece of art that is better than the same amount of silence; I would prefer to sit silently thinking for ten minutes than to listen to certain pieces of music, and therefore feel that it is my duty as a composer to occupy the time of the listener.


If you’re left-leaning, you’ll be nodding your head; if you’re right-leaning, you’re head will be exploding. Everyone can agree that this is a pretty good summary of Axios, though:

...to render the gist of things in a rhetorical register a bit less evasive than Axios’s trademark semaphoric house style: Be Smart—liberal democracy is in retreat, millions more people live in authoritarian states, and right-wing ethnonationalism threatens to sweep across vast swaths of the world, but, in the short term, your portfolio should continue to beat expectations.


A good summary of modern monetary theory and a warning from Ben Hunt at Epsilon Theory.

I can see this narrative storm system forming off the coast of Africa. I can see it heading west across the Atlantic. I know the warm waters of the election cycle Gulf are going to feed it until it becomes a monster. I know it’s going to make landfall.

I can’t stop it and you can’t stop it. But forewarned is forearmed.

We can prepare for the storm.



This is long but I think Casey Newton has the best analysis of the Covington Catholic debacle.

Yes, everything is Gamergate. In 2014, Kyle Wagner wrote a spot-on essay about how the lessons of Gamergate — the campaign of targeted harassment against mostly female journalists, cloaked in the language of press criticism — predicted much of our current moment. He writes:

"There is a reason why, in all the Gamergate rhetoric, you hear the echoes of every other social war staged in the last 30 years: overly politically correct, social-justice warriors, the media elite, gamers are not a monolith. There is also a reason why so much of the rhetoric amounts to a vigorous argument that Being a gamer doesn’t mean you’re sexist, racist, and stupid—a claim no one is making. Co-opting the language and posture of grievance is how members of a privileged class express their belief that the way they live shouldn’t have to change, that their opponents are hypocrites and perhaps even the real oppressors. This is how you get St. Louisans sincerely explaining that Ferguson protestors are the real racists, and how you end up with an organized group of precisely the same video game enthusiasts to whom an entire industry is catering honestly believing that they’re an oppressed minority. From this kind of ideological fortification, you can stage absolutely whatever campaigns you deem necessary."

You see this kind of response in the conservative reaction to the Covington videos, which essentially says: these kids were just exercising their First Amendment rights, and the real issue here is that the intolerant left and mainstream media have come to demonize them and chill their free-speech rights. They also complained that the Native American elder, Nathan Phillips, had walked toward the teens initially — and not been sought out by them, as some had first reported. This is the basic mechanic by which the Covington teens can get a sympathetic audience on the Today show, and a possible invitation to the White House. If you’re a news consumer, it’s helpful to understand this playbook as you watch it play out during every major conflict. And if you’re a news producer, it’s helpful to understanding so that you don’t yourself get played.

Week of January 14, 2019

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:


A truly heartbreaking story about who should be held accountable when a tragedy occurs.

The horror followed by sadness followed by horror followed by sadness flowed and overflowed and kept overflowing. There was no way to contain it, nor should it have been contained.


In a sense, we already live in the Matrix.

What’s gone from the internet, after all, isn’t “truth,” but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be. Years of metrics-driven growth, lucrative manipulative systems, and unregulated platform marketplaces, have created an environment where it makes more sense to be fake online — to be disingenuous and cynical, to lie and cheat, to misrepresent and distort — than it does to be real.


Craig Mod updates his seminal work on the production, distribution, and consumption of books after seven years. It’s a must read.

Our Future Book is composed of email, tweets, YouTube videos, mailing lists, crowdfunding campaigns, PDF to .mobi converters, Amazon warehouses, and a surge of hyper-affordable offset printers in places like Hong Kong. For a “book” is just the endpoint of a latticework of complex infrastructure, made increasingly accessible. Even if the endpoint stays stubbornly the same—either as an unchanging Kindle edition or simple paperback—the universe that produces, breathes life into, and supports books is changing in positive, inclusive ways, year by year. The Future Book is here and continues to evolve. You’re holding it. It’s exciting. It’s boring. It’s more important than it has ever been.


The most interesting fact in this article is that Tilray is headquartered in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Canada; a place that I have been several times (long before they were cultivating cannabis there, though). The ascendance of these pot stock billionaires is concerning given the lack of criminal justice reform related to marijuana convictions and long prison sentences. However, it’s encouraging to hear that the issue is at the forefront of Brendan Kennedy’s mind.

If Kennedy were setting a line in Vegas, he likes to say, he would pick 2021 as the year the U.S. will legalize cannabis. If he’s wrong, and the U.S. doesn’t budge? Not the end of the world, he says; he expects medical legalization to double to 70 other countries by then. Sure, as an American business leader, he’d feel let down by his government: “They’ll basically be ensuring that the companies that dominate this industry in the next decade are all based outside the U.S.” For the CEO of a Canadian company, though, that’s not really a problem.


Fahmi Quadir is trying to make a name for herself in a high stakes world dominated mostly by men. This article fills in a lot of details that Dirty Money left out.

If big institutions balk at her lack of experience, a select few relish the fire in the belly that often comes with youth. “I want them hungry. I want them eager,” says Donna Walker of Sire Management, a $150 million fund-of-funds that was one of Safkhet’s first investors.If big institutions balk at her lack of experience, a select few relish the fire in the belly that often comes with youth. “I want them hungry. I want them eager,” says Donna Walker of Sire Management, a $150 million fund-of-funds that was one of Safkhet’s first investors.


Before you click, imagine what it would be like to go 184 MPH on a bike. Now, click.

Week of December 10, 2018

A bit different this week, several Netflix shows that I’ve watched recently and greatly enjoyed.





Week of December 3, 2018

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:

Rabbit Hole

Jenny Odell's investigation into a particular corner of the strange, spammy Amazon clickbait landscape, and the equally weird drop-shipping empire that is behind it.

Recently, one of my students at Stanford told me a strange story. His parents, who live in Palo Alto, Calif., had been receiving mysterious packages at their house. The packages were all different shapes and sizes but each was addressed to “Returns Department, Valley Fountain LLC.” I looked into it and found that a company called Valley Fountain LLC was indeed listed at his parents’ address. But it also appeared to be listed at 235 Montgomery Street, Suite 350, in downtown San Francisco. So were 140 other LLCs, most of which were registered in 2015.


Incentives matter:

Amanda told Mader that while there was no way to accept the loss of her brother, she and the family were heartened that the last person Williams had spoken with was Mader — someone, she said, who had seen the man’s despair and done his best not to worsen it.


Again, incentives matter. Frederic Filloux on the populist revolt going on in France:

Facebook is the most threatening weapon to democracies ever invented. Over the last two years, the hijacking of the social network by populist groups or parties has tainted about a dozen election processes across the world and brought to power a string of populists leaders that will have a profound effect on their countries.

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