Urban Studies

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Ray Bradbury reportedly wrote Fahrenheit 451 on coin-operated typewriters in the early 1950s. As the San Francisco Chronicle points out, coin-operated computers became a thing three decades later in the Bay Area. No dystopian masterpieces seem to have emerged, but it was an interesting experiment nonetheless. The opening of the above article:

“Patrons of the San Francisco Civic Center library may now buy time on a coin-operated computer–a $1 token pays for 20 minutes–to help figure their household budget, manage a small business or learn to type.

The computer comes with an instruction book written on a third-grade level.

The library’s first Franklin Ace 1000 computer was wheeled into the main library by Kim Cohan, its 18-year-old marketing entrepreneur, who said he has ‘taken an expensive piece of equipment and brought it to a level where it’s affordable for a large number of people.’

Cohan has taken a $4500 computer and wired it to a coin box and a printer. Librarians will sell the $1 tokens–which are restamped slot machine tokens–and take reservations from the public for up to an hour on the computer.”

R. Crumb, who likes cans (and LSD), and Al Goldstein, the late admirer of beaver (and electronics), compare hairy palms in the latter half of the ’80s in Northern California. Prior to the interview, Goldstein kindly offers Sean Penn an ass-whooping.

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“He was obliged to shut the boy up or keep him chained, as he would eat all the eggs and chickens unless restrained.”

A growing boy with a healthy appetite was the focus of an article in the Detroit Tribune, which was republished in the September 1, 1871 Brooklyn Daily Eagle. An excerpt:

Johnson, Mich.–A great deal has been said in our local papers lately about the wonderful and unnatural appetite of the boy William Henry Forbes, now confined to the jail in this city, and to-day your reporter availed himself of the opportunity presented to witness an exhibition of the boy’s capacity. The feat, disgusting enough I assure you, was nothing less than the eating of a chicken raw.

Quite a crowd assembled in the jail barn to see the sight which was literally performed. A live chicken and a knife were placed in the boy’s hands when the revolting operation commenced. The chicken was laid on the floor and held down between the boy’s knees, while he sawed the head off with the knife. The boy then placed the bleeding neck in his mouth and deliberately sucked the warm blood from the body. He then began tearing the skin from the body, which proved quite a difficult task, at the same time, as a sort of pastime, chewing pieces of the skin which had been partly denuded of the feathers. Then beginning with one leg, the disgusting lunch began. I say lunch, for it was three o’clock in the afternoon, and the boy had already eaten three men’s rations for his dinner. After finishing both legs, he stopped long enough to remove the entrails, when he proceeded to finish the chicken. The fact of his eating the chicken in this way was no less surprising than his manner during the performance. He stood in the middle of the floor, apparently regardless of lookers on or their jokes, his whole attention seemingly engaged in what he was doing, and his inhuman meal was also eaten with evident relish. While eating the chicken, in reply to some questions he said he once swallowed a young duck alive, and no one doubted the statement after seeing him.

“He said he once swallowed a young duck alive.”

In conversation the boy seems quite intelligent. He is nearly 15 years old, but is not larger than a boy of 12, and has a hungry wolfish expression, which creates the impression that he has been starved at some period in his life. He was taken from the poorhouse about six years ago by Ira Gavitt, a farmer in the Township of Summit, and at that time ate no more than ordinary boys of his age. He was brought into notice by the arrest of Gavitt on complaint of his neighbor for abusing the boy. Gaviitt claims that he was obliged to shut the boy up or keep him chained, as he would eat all the eggs and chickens unless restrained. The boy will not say anything against Gavitt or his family.

The case is one well worthy of the attention of the medical fraternity. The boy was placed in jail on a charge of stealing, but really it was done to get him out of Gavitt’s hands. He really ought to be sent to the House of Corrections or the Reform School, where he can receive good medical attention, as there can be no doubt that his terrible appetite is a disease. He was asked if he could eat a baby, and he replied that he could if he should try. It is said that he attacked a boy on one occasion, telling him he must kill him to get his blood, for he must have blood.”

Whether we’re talking about American Graffiti or J.G. Ballard’s Crash, we’re discussing freedom and power. And when no person handles the wheel anymore, how will we replace that sensation of controlling time and space? Virtual reality? Something else?

Ballard, tooling around.

"I am single and without a lover at the moment."

“I am single and without a lover at the moment.”

My 90 year old neighbor just called me a dish

My neighbor was widowed recently after 64 years of marriage and professed to being very lonely. I never knew his wife since I am considerably younger than his 90 years (58). We have been sharing a bottle of wine a couple of times a week and I have felt that his obvious infatuation was natural and healthy and healing. Thing is, I find him attractive too…but frail! Tonight, he tells me that I’m a “dish” and he’s horny. What should I do? I’m horny too. Should I demand a visit to his physician to make sure that he is physically able to have sex or should I just figure, “what the hell, he’ll die happy?” I am single and without a lover at the moment. I like sex. But, as a boomer, will my openness freak this guy out? He wants to drive me home! Did I mention that I live next door? OK, country properties, so it’s a 100 yard trek but I’m not used to such gallantry! I am interested in thoughtful comments and thank you all for considering the situation.

"I find him attractive too...but frail!"

Hell is other people, but if they own a pied–à–terre in Manhattan, you might upgrade them to purgatory.

The virtual advantages of the online world are being leveraged more and more offline, and not just in high-tech ways like with 3-D printers. Case in point: Airbnb, which has increased the inventory of lodgings without building a thing. It’s a knowledge share that becomes a physical one. It allows the non-professional to quantify the landscape and take advantage of otherwise hidden opportunities, though there may be some drawbacks. From Jeremy Rifkin’s Los Angeles Times op-ed about the company and the broader sharing economy:

“It’s not difficult to see why the service has soared in value. For a traditional hotel chain to add another room to its inventory, the room must be built or acquired, at a significant cost. Airbnb can add another room to its inventory at almost no cost, since its website is already up and running.

Private enterprises have every incentive to reduce their marginal costs. Doing so means they can increase profits, offer goods and services at a lower price, or both. But now the Internet and other innovations have reduced marginal costs to near zero for some commodities and services, which has left many traditional companies reeling.

The zero marginal cost phenomenon has sowed a path of destruction across the recording and information industries over the last decade, as millions of consumers began to produce and share music, video, news and knowledge with one another on the Internet at near zero marginal cost. This phenomenon has weakened revenues in the music industry, newspaper and publishing fields, and the book publishing industry.

Now, as we are seeing with Airbnb, the phenomenon is crossing over from soft goods in virtual space to physical goods in the brick-and-mortar world.”

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It’s not that we’re entering a post-jobs world but one where automation, along with other economic factors, may make for permanently higher unemployment levels. Many types of work will vanish and not everyone will be suited for the new normal. Not all clerks can become nurses. From Tyler Cowen in the New York Times:

“How afraid should workers be of these new technologies? There is reason to be skeptical of the assumption that machines will leave humanity without jobs. After all, history has seen many waves of innovation and automation, and yet as recently as 2000, the rate of unemployment was a mere 4 percent. There are unlimited human wants, so there is always more work to be done. The economic theory of comparative advantage suggests that even unskilled workers can gain from selling their services, thereby liberating the more skilled workers for more productive tasks.

Nonetheless, technologically related unemployment — or, even worse, the phenomenon of people falling out of the labor force altogether because of technology — may prove a tougher problem this time around.

Labor markets just aren’t as flexible these days for workers, especially for men at the bottom end of the skills distribution.”

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From the October 26, 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

El Paso, Texas–Strapped to an operating table, James Clifford, 28-year-old self-styled scion of a wealthy Oakland, Cal., family, declared today he shot himself on order of a secret cult, whose heads gave him a pistol and demanded he commit suicide because he had fallen in love with the wife of another cult member. Police were forced to handcuff the injured man and he was strapped to the operating table while physicians worked, because of violent attempts to complete what he said was an attempt to kill himself. He was not wounded dangerously, one of two shots going wild and the other inflicting a surface abdominal wound.”

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From John Naughton’s Guardian article about Michael Lewis’ new book which reveals computerized Wall Street chicanery, a passage about how technology, that supposed equalizer, can in fact tip the balance of the digital scales:

“This is a good illustration of one of the central problems that society will have to address in the coming decades: the collision between analogue mindsets and digital realities.

Software is pure ‘thought-stuff.’ The only resource needed to produce it is human intelligence and expertise. This has two implications. The first is that attempting to regulate the things that it creates is like trying to catch quicksilver using a butterfly net.

The Edward Snowden disclosures about the US National Security Agency have revealed how difficult it is to bring this stuff under effective democratic control. Lewis’s account of how high-frequency trader geeks have run rings around the regulators suggests that much the same holds true in civilian life. This technology can easily run out of control.

The second implication is that what one might call the politics of expertise will become much more important. Mastery of these technologies confers enormous power on those who have it. Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes and all that. So in addition to wondering who will guard the guardians, we may have to start thinking about who is going to guard the geeks.”

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It’s possible that gasoline stations and fast-food restaurants are the Easter Island totems of the modern world. Of course, the difference is that the sculpture of that bygone civilization didn’t prompt its fall nor did it kill off other societies. And like Easter Island’s statuary, I think filling stations and burger-chain restaurants are often amazingly designed. How beautiful our doom.

Along with many great sights from NYC’s 1964 World’s Fair, this 1964 film from Sinclair oil company displays its glorious dinosaur-juice outlets.

From a really fun TED interview by Brooke Borel about the intersection of science and sports with former NFL punter Chris Kluwe, journalist David Epstein (The Sports Gene) and scientist Cynthia Bir, thoughts from the kicker about augmented and virtual reality:

Question:

With Google Glass, how do you see that technology changing the landscape of football—and other sports—in the future?

Chris Kluwe: 

I think it will initially shift the viewing perspective. People will now have another way to watch the game—from the athlete’s perspective. It’ll no longer be just the overhead cameras and the sweeping Skycam— you’ll actually be able to see what your favorite player did on the play from his or her perspective. That’s something that we’ve never really had up to this point.

From there, it leads to people becoming more comfortable with the idea of things like augmented reality and virtual reality, which leads into that being adopted more and more into everyday life. In the sporting world, that means augmented reality being adopted into the actual sports themselves. For football, you could have a projector that displays your next series of plays on your helmet as you’re running back to the huddle. Or something that highlights the receiver, or warns you if a guy is coming off your blind spot, for instance tackling against quarterback.

You see this a lot in the military—on displays in fighter jets, and I think they’re working on actual ground-based troop systems as well—there’s this filter of information between you and the world, an additional layer of information that you can use to enhance your own senses. I think we’re at that point right now where not a lot of people realize that, just like not a lot of people realized that the Internet was going to be something that spread and covered the entire world, or that cell phones would be as ubiquitous. No one even thinks of not having a cell phone, but there was a point when cell phones were big briefcase, clunky things that only executives on Wall Street had.”

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The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released this week was, wow, dreadful. The New Yorker blog posted an excerpt from Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2013 reaction to an early version of the findings that were leaked. An excerpt about the death of diversity, which may include you and I or the next generations of us:

“As bad as things look for humans, the prognosis for non-humans is, in many ways, worse. Under all the scenarios that the I.P.C.C. panel considered, including an implausible one in which the world imposes drastic limits on carbon emissions right now, a ‘large fraction’ of terrestrial and freshwater species face elevated extinction risks. Under the most likely scenarios, many species ‘will not be able to move fast enough during the 21st century to track suitable climates’, and there is a chance that some ecosystems, including the Arctic tundra and the Amazon rainforest, will undergo ‘abrupt and irreversible change.’ Forests are already dying back in some parts of the world because of warming-related stress, and more forests are likely to follow suit as temperatures continue to rise. As Grist put it in a summary of the findings, ‘Animal Planet will get really boring.’

As it happens, the very same day the I.P.C.C. report was leaked, President Obama issued an executive order titled ‘Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change.’ Among other things, it established a new Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, to be co-chaired by the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and—suggestively enough—the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

Promoting ‘preparedness’ is doubtless a good idea. As the executive order notes, climate impacts—which include, but are not limited to, heat waves, heavier downpours, and an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires—are ‘already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation.’ However, one of the dangers of this enterprise is that it tends to presuppose, in a Boy Scout-ish sort of way, that ‘preparedness’ is possible.'”

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From the October 30, 1903 New York Times:

Niagara Falls, N.Y.–Physicians of Niagara Falls are mystified by a remarkable discovery made during an autopsy on the body of Mrs. Mary E. Halliday, who died suddenly.

She was seized with a strange attack, and a doctor relieved her by administering stimulants. When the doctor had departed she grew worse and soon died.

Coroner Slocum directed that an autopsy be performed. Two pieces of corset steel were found in her heart, their total length being eight and three-quarter inches. Where they rubbed together the ends were worn to a razor edge by the movement of her body.

There is no information as to how or when the steel entered her body. None of Mrs. Halliday’s relatives ever heard her complain of an accident of that kind.

The doctors say it may have been swallowed and worked its way from the intestines to the heart, or might have penetrated the skin and worked around until found.

She was forty-two years old and the mother of six children. She suffered greatly and at times was confined to her bed, but rheumatism was her supposed ailment.”

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In an Aeon essay “Russia’s Sacred Land,” Peter Turchin, father of Cliodynamics, looks at psychology on a national scale, examining its irrational yet evolutionary underpinnings. In doing so, he downplays the role of Putin in the annexation of Crimea. An excerpt:

“States often behave in an opportunistic manner, grabbing real estate when they can and giving it up when the cost of holding it becomes too great. In 1732, Russia returned a large chunk of Persian territory that Peter the Great had conquered in the previous decade. In return, the Persians entered an alliance with the Russians against the Ottoman Empire. This kind of behaviour is well-described by realism. However, most states, historical and modern, also put some territory into a special category, one that is not subject to rational geopolitical calculation. Such land is ‘sacred’. It must be held at all costs.

Here we find an obvious manifestation of the bourgeois strategy in the hawk-dove game. States and populations that are willing to escalate conflict as far as necessary in defence of their sacred lands are more likely to persist in the international arena. Those that treat their core territory in a rational manner – forfeiting it in accordance with strategic imperatives, as, for example, several Germanic tribes did repeatedly during the Migration Period – get wiped out. As a result, we observe the coevolution of geopolitics and what the anthropologist Scott Atran has identified as ‘sacred values’. Geopolitical assets acquire an aura of sanctity.”

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"Pregnancy stomach, stretch marks always welcome."

“Pregnancy stomach, stretch marks always welcome.”

My perfect woman (disturbing content) – 36 (Midtown)

My perfect woman…

(This is gonna get kind of crazy–if that’s too much for you just stop reading now)

  • Long hair to her ass
  • Long, large nose
  • Short less than five five and fat (not chubby–fat). Big ass, thighs, arms.
  • Breasts that are long, low, wide and full.
  • Belly that is big, round and full. Pregnancy stomach, stretch marks always welcome.
  • Children are a plus but not necessary
  • Loves to eat big, and be treated like a good girl.
  • If married be willing to start a second relationship
  • If dating be willing to start a second relationship
  • If single be willing to become pregnant
  • Open mind, open heart

Bonus points for:

  • having shit or pissed yourself in the past
  • not shaving any or all parts of your body
  • facial hair
  • used to be a man and kept the penis
  • has ever described yourself as lazy
  • would never admit to anyone but secretly think that you are stupid

Double bonus points for:

  • having been in special education in high school
  • had sex with a family member and saw nothing wrong with it

When we’re truly wired, when the Internet of Things is the thing, when the revolution is not televised but quantified, and it’s all seamless so seamless, will we even know to smile? From a Foreign Affairs piece by Neil Gershenfeld and JP Vasseur:

The Internet of Things is not just science fiction; it has already arrived. Some of the things currently networked together send data over the public Internet, and some communicate over secure private networks, but all share common protocols that allow them to interoperate to help solve profound problems.

Take energy inefficiency. Buildings account for three-quarters of all electricity use in the United States, and of that, about one-third is wasted. Lights stay on when there is natural light available, and air is cooled even when the weather outside is more comfortable or a room is unoccupied. Sometimes fans move air in the wrong direction or heating and cooling systems are operated simultaneously. This enormous amount of waste persists because the behavior of thermostats and light bulbs are set when buildings are constructed; the wiring is fixed and the controllers are inaccessible. Only when the infrastructure itself becomes intelligent, with networked sensors and actuators, can the efficiency of a building be improved over the course of its lifetime.

Health care is another area of huge promise. The mismanagement of medication, for example, costs the health-care system billions of dollars per year. Shelves and pill bottles connected to the Internet can alert a forgetful patient when to take a pill, a pharmacist to make a refill, and a doctor when a dose is missed. Floors can call for help if a senior citizen has fallen, helping the elderly live independently. Wearable sensors could monitor one’s activity throughout the day and serve as personal coaches, improving health and saving costs.

Countless futuristic “smart houses” have yet to generate much interest in living in them. But the Internet of Things succeeds to the extent that it is invisible. A refrigerator could communicate with a grocery store to reorder food, with a bathroom scale to monitor a diet, with a power utility to lower electricity consumption during peak demand, and with its manufacturer when maintenance is needed. Switches and lights in a house could adapt to how spaces are used and to the time of day. Thermostats with access to calendars, beds, and cars could plan heating and cooling based on the location of the house’s occupants. Utilities today provide power and plumbing; these new services would provide safety, comfort, and convenience.

In cities, the Internet of Things will collect a wealth of new data. Understanding the flow of vehicles, utilities, and people is essential to maximizing the productivity of each, but traditionally, this has been measured poorly, if at all. If every street lamp, fire hydrant, bus, and crosswalk were connected to the Internet, then a city could generate real-time readouts of what’s working and what’s not. Rather than keeping this information internally, city hall could share open-source data sets with developers, as some cities are already doing.•

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Aaron Burr, statesman and murderer, spent his last days reclusively on Staten Island, New York. He was a decidedly a shadowy figure in the borough, and his funeral services were lightly attended. But there was one entrepreneur who kept a close check on the former Vice President during his waning moments. An excerpt from an article in the September 8, 1895 New York Times:

“It is not generally known that Aaron Burr spent the last days of his life and died on Staten Island. A few paces back from the Staten Island Ferry landing, at Port Richmond, stands the St. James Hotel, which is anything but a pretentious structure, and was originally a two-story boarding house in the year 1836, kept by a couple named Edgerton. It was during the early part of that year that Burr took a room there, and Mrs. Edgerton became his faithful servant and nurse. He sought seclusion and peace for his last days on earth, and, to an extent, found his desire within the great city of his choice, where he had realized the greatest triumphs of his life. The town was then composed of but a few scattered houses, and the Jersey shore was covered with a pine forest to the water’s edge, a clear view of which could be had from this old dwelling house. He rarely left his room, which was the front apartment on the second floor, now used as a parlor in the hotel. The furniture was antique and the room about eighteen feet square. The bed upon which Burr died was an old-fashioned, four-post, chintz-curtained one. Over the mantel now hangs a profile steel engraving of Burr, undoubtedly cut from some biography of the man, simply framed, to which, until recently, there was attached the inscription: ‘Aaron Burr died in this room Sept. 14, 1836.’

Upon rare occasions, and when he was confident that he would not be noticed, he wandered a short distance from his place of refuge, but the old man was too well known by the villagers to escape observation, and many eyes were upon him at every step, the villagers being proud of their visitor and observant of every action of so celebrated a man. He was an under-sized, sparsely built old man at this time, but he was also, to the end, erect and soldierly in bearing. His attire was always very fine, and he dressed with the utmost neatness, was quite the aristocratic gentleman of the old school, and the refinement and elegance of his manner were invariably conspicuous. He could be singularly winning and gentle even with the humblest. His complexion was pale and like parchment for years before his death, and at this time he was upward of eighty years of age. The dignity of his face was slightly marred by a thin, aquiline nose, which had a decided bend to one side, either through some accident or by nature’s malformation. Despite his advanced age, his eyes were keen and magnetic to a remarkable degree. He had learned or rather grown to dislike the curiosity seeker, and finding that he could not take his short walks abroad without being gazed at continually by the natives of Staten Island, he became more seclusive as the days went by, and finally refused to leave his room. In this room, rendered historic by his presence, this old decrepit, wornout, once great man passed his time with memories and sought consolation in the love letters of the women who had once loved him, among which were those of Mme. Jumel, filed with affectionate regard and regrets that a cruel fate had separated them. All those letters were scattered about his room, and when he died hundreds of such letters loose and in packages tied with ribbons were scattered upon his bed and upon the floor of the chamber. Among the evidences of his intriguing disposition, not at accusers, but as tokens of the loves of his victims, the old man breathed his last. …

The old man had no attendant. He lived alone, with his old joys and his new sorrows, waiting for death to claim him and take him he knew and seemed to care not whither. A mysterious stranger haunted the house for many days and nights before the death of Burr. He never was admitted to the recluse, but always made interested inquiries concerning his health, and he was supposed to be either a relative or interested friend of the statesman, although he was neither. This man was faithful to the determination, and almost immediately after Aaron Burr’s death put in an appearance, and, without saying, ‘By your leave,’ opened his satchel and proceeded, as if he had a right to do so, to take a plaster cast of the dead man.”

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Incredibly cool 1965 CBS Evening News report presented by Walter Cronkite about underground filmmaking in NYC. Features footage of “a musical group called the Velvet Underground” and interviews with Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick.

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I have a fetish

I’m having a bad day and if someone could just give me a ring and call me a beautiful unicorn. It would make my day. I don’t ask my real life friends because I know it’s weird. Feel free to call me anonymously. Just call me a “beautiful unicorn” and describe what I look like and it’ll really turn me on.

From the July 31, 1895 New York Times:

Watertown, N.Y.–Jayville, a village on the fringe of the Adirondack forest, above Carthage, has been the scene of the punishment of a woman, in a manner which has been outraged decency.

Mrs. Bert Covey of Jayville left that place some time years ago, and it was alleged that she had eloped with a man of the place. Nothing was heard of until Saturday, when she suddenly returned. Sunday two men called on her, telling her that if she did not immediately leave the place, she would be tarred and feathered. She went to Pitcairn on Monday, and swore out a warrant for the arrest of the two men who had threatened her. She returned home in the evening.

When the train stopped at Jayville, and the woman stepped off, she was suddenly surrounded by a crow of men, who seized her, and took her into the railroad freight house, where they stripped her. There was a crowd of women present, dressed in men’s clothes, and with blackened faces.

The men held the woman down on the floor while the women applied tar and feathers with a paint brush, completely covering her with the stuff. Then they left her. She was taken to her mother’s house, where a physician was called, who found that one arm and a number of ribs were broken. It is said that almost all of the parties concerned in the case are known, and warrants will immediately be sworn out for their arrest.”

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I was an early adopter of Gmail in 2004, back when you still couldn’t create accounts at will but had to get a code sent to your cellphone to complete the sign-up process. I still remember the disquiet I felt the first time ads seemed to be targeting me based on keywords in my messages. A decade later, I’m pretty much sick of the service, “free” though it is. It’s such clutter now, with so many of my emails filtered into the wrong folders and numerous “great offers” sent to me that I don’t want. I need to switch to an email that’s stripped down and simplified.

From Harry McCracken’s new Time article, “How Gmail Happened“:

“The first true landmark service to emerge from Google since its search engine debuted in 1998, Gmail didn’t just blow away Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, the dominant free webmail services of the day. With its vast storage, zippy interface, instant search and other advanced features, it may have been the first major cloud-based app that was capable of replacing conventional PC software, not just complementing it.

Even the things about Gmail that ticked off some people presaged the web to come: Its scanning of messages to find keywords that could be used for advertising purposes kicked off a conversation about online privacy that continues on to this day.

Within Google, Gmail was also regarded as a huge, improbable deal. It was in the works for nearly three years before it reached consumers; during that time, skeptical Googlers ripped into the concept on multiple grounds, from the technical to the philosophical. It’s not hard to envision an alternate universe in which the effort fell apart along the way, or at least resulted in something a whole lot less interesting.

‘It was a pretty big moment for the Internet,’ says Georges Harik, who was responsible for most of Google’s new products when Gmail was hatched. (The company called such efforts ‘Googlettes’ at the time.) ‘Taking something that hadn’t been worked on for years but was central, and fixing it.'”

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Much of the Internet is littered with hollow click bait, so that makes Richard Deitsch’s “Media Circus” column at SI a welcome anomaly. It’s always overstuffed with ideas and all sorts of interesting and provocative views. In his latest column, Deitsch presents a panel on race in sports media. It doesn’t disappoint. Here’s Gregory Lee Jr. of the Florida Sun-Sentinel answering the question, “How much racism exists today in the sports media?”:

Gregory Lee Jr.:

The landscape remains institutionalized. During my 20 years in the newspaper business, the path to landing a job is about who you know. Sports editors tend to hire people they are comfortable around, people who could have a beer with them. It still happens. How else would you explain that 90 percent of the sports sections are made up of white males? There are only four African American sports editors at large newspapers today. One day, while in the offices of the Boston Globe, I had a conversation about potential candidates with my boss Joe Sullivan. I rattled off names of people I thought would be good for our NBA opening. My boss did not really know the people I named, so I invited him to attend the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Las Vegas in 2007 so he could meet people that otherwise he would not have had on his radar for openings. There he made many connections with people not only in the job fair; Joe went to sports-related workshops, receptions and parties to get to know the talented journalists that were in attendance. The Globe would eventually hire great people such as Marc Spears and Gary Washburn, and Joe has been to a few more NABJ Conventions to check out talent pool and connect with the membership.

The problem in the industry is we don’t have enough voices in the newsroom to shed light on the disparities there. There are not many people of color or women in editing positions who can influence decision-making. Joe and I were a great team because he knew I had access to a number of talented journalists of color due to my participation in NABJ and the Sports Journalism Institute, a program that helps minorities and women achieve careers in the industry. During my time at the Globe we brought in a number of talented people such as Jerome Solomon, Baxter Holmes, Julian Benbow and then Monique Walker (now Jones). But the key thing is editors should take personal responsibility in developing their own talent database and not rely on the company’s recruiter. As an editor, I am expected to know who are the talented sports journalists around the nation, regardless of color. I should not have editors continuing to call me to locate talented minority journalists. I am happy to be a resource and headhunter for my fellow editors, but it’s time for all of them to create their own pool of talent. If we do that, then our numbers will grow. An example of a double standard in sports media is that African American sports reporters are told the path to getting a column is to start from the bottom on the high school beat, work your way to a college beat and then cover a professional beat. A few years ago, a major newspaper gave a column to a white male who never had a major beat before. This person skipped over the entire process that African Americans were told they had to take. Let me tell you, that pissed off some of my friends in the business. Let’s be clear, there was no animosity towards the new columnist. The frustrations rests with the consistent double standards that still exist.”

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Alistair Cooke brought his Omnibus TV show into the New York Times newsroom in 1954 to see how men–and only men–published news in that era. Listen to those clunky typewriter keys tapping. The paper began to computerize two decades.later.

Providing alcoholics with alcohol is counterintuitive to say the least, though some programs do just that. They aim to keep addicts from engaging in dangerous behavior to get their fix, but they also ensure that pretty much no one will ever completely kick the habit. From Anke Snoek at Practical Ethics:

“A Dutch program pays chronic alcoholics in beer for cleaning the streets and parks. A Canadian homeless shelter provides their alcohol clients with six ounces of white wine every 90 minutes. Giving alcohol to alcoholics, it seems counterproductive from a ‘just say no’ perspective, but I would like to argue that it makes sense on many levels.

The strongest case for giving alcohol to people with chronic alcohol dependence is based on the principle of ‘harm reduction.’ Canadian ‘wet-shelter’ programs have emerged for two main reasons. The first is that many homeless shelters are abstinence based which means inveterate drinks would continue to sleep rough, even in freezing winter months, resulting in tragic deaths. The second reason is that chronic inebriates often consume non-beverage alcohol like hand sanitizer, mouth wash and aftershave thereby exacerbating already severe health problems. A recent study by the Centre for Addictions Research found that a “managed alcohol program” approach reduced emergency hospital visits and arrests among participants at the Kwae Kii Win Centre Managed Alcohol Centre by 40-80%.”

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Freeman Dyson has been writing for years about an indefinite point in the future when biotech enthusiasts will be, à la their Homebrew Computer Club ancestors, tinkering in their garages, not creating new gadgets but new life forms. DARPA is, unsurprisingly, beating the hobbyists to the punch, as it did with computers and the Internet. From Meghan Neal at Vice:

“Ye sci-fi writers hard up for new material should spend an hour or so perusing the Defense Department’s 2015 budget proposal, especially the section covering the far-out research projects underway at DARPA, where the agency’s mad scientists are working to develop brain-controlled drones, biowarfare, engineer new life forms, and possibly attempt immortality.

If last year was the year of battlefield robots, cyborg soldiers, and weaponized drones, it looks like the next couple years will see the Pentagon gearing up for a deep dive into biotech. DARPA announced today it now has a unit devoted to studying the intersection of biology and engineering, the Biological Technologies Office.

The agency is betting that the next generation of defense tech will be take a cue from natural life, and as such one of the major focuses of the new unit will be on synthetic biology. It’ll ramp up research into manufacturing biomaterials, turning living cells, proteins, and DNA into a sort of genetic factory.

The goal is to create man-made, living supermaterials, prorammed through DNA code, that can be used for next-gen mechanical and electrical products, self-repairing materials, renewable fuels, solar cells, and so on.”

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