September 3rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Crashing the Rent Party

A few months ago while awaiting approval for a complete remodel, a homeowner across the street from my house decided to make some extra cash by renting out their place on Airbnb. The price was low. The groups of people who rented the house were young and there to party. And within a couple weeks, just about all of the neighbors were frustrated. Situations like this, in one form or another, are playing out in many places as the sharing economy meets the old way of doing things. From the LA Times, here’s a look at how Airbnb is shaking things up in Silver Lake, where some residents see rental income as a goldmine, while others are calling for a crackdown. Of course, if the renters do get forced out, they’ll need to share someone’s car to get out of town.

+ The way we live, and who we live with, really has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Consider this stat: “In 1968, just six percent of young people — between 18 and 31 — lived with platonic roommates.”

+ Here’s an “only in the Bay Area” sentence: “He showers, picks up his laundry, and goes back to his Winnebago to start coding.”


Redmond’s New Ringtone

Can two wrongs make a right? We’re about to find out. Over the weekend, Microsoft announced a $7 billion acquisition of Nokia’s handset business (along with a lot of patents) in an effort to try to turn things around for both businesses in the current mobile landscape.

+ Not sure if the new combination of Nokia and Microsoft can woo people away from Apple and Android? It might not matter. There are still millions who will upgrade from feature phones to smartphones, and Nokia could be a in a good position to gain some marketshare among those users.

+ Microsoft may have acquired a new CEO along with the rest of Nokia. If Stephen Elop is the company’s next boss, Slate’s Matthew Yglesias advises that employees should get ready to plunge 30 meters into the freezing cold waters of the North Sea.

+ How tough is it to stay on top in the tech world? In 2007, Nokia’s marketshare was 48.7%. By 2012, it was 3.5%.

+ And in 2006, Microsoft led the U.S. smartphone scene. Maybe these stats will make Blackberry feel a little better…


Mr. Obama Goes to Washington

President Obama has started consulting with members of Congress in an effort to gain support for a strike on Syria. Will he get it? It’s a decent bet: “No U.S. president has ever been turned down by Congress when asking to use military force.” Get up to speed on the possible military strike in twenty questions.

+ What is Syria and why are people there killing each other? Don’t know? Don’t worry. Neither do most of the people posting all-knowing Tweets about what Obama should being doing. Here are nine questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask.


When Outbursts Were In

New Republic’s Elizabeth Weil argues that American schools are failing nonconformist kids and adopting “an orthodoxy embodied by a composed, conforming kid who doesn’t externalize problems or talk too much or challenge the rules too frequently or move around excessively or complain about the curriculum or have passionate outbursts.”

+ Ben Popper wonders: Is technology scrambling my baby’s brain? In a few years, he’ll be wondering whether his toddler has reprogrammed his computer.


Keep Pushing

“With your left hand, say, push Cuba back, and push Florida towards you.” At 64, Diana Nyad beats back the demons of past failures and becomes the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida, sans shark cage. It was her fifth try. Definitely read this article if you haven’t done your workout today. Nyad will pump you up.


Let’s Take This Outside…

Are you one of those people who feels more comfortable in front of a screen than in front of another person? Meet MACH, the computer that teaches people how to be social. This could be a solution looking for a problem. These days, people seem more interested in figuring out a way to avoid people so they can get back to their computers.

+ NatGeo: Five Incredible—and Real—Mind-Control Applications.


A PhD in JD

“He was carrying six chapters of Catcher in the Rye when he landed on D-Day. That was something that stunned me. He carried these chapters with him almost as a talisman to keep him alive, and he worked on the book throughout the war.” NPR interviews the author of Salinger.

+ “If you really want to hear about it…” Here are fifteen revelations from the new J.D. Salinger biography.


Eike is the New Yikes

Eike Batista is worth an estimated $900 million. That sounds like a pretty good number. Unless you consider that it represents a 97% drop from a couple years ago when it looked like Batista had a shot at becoming the world’s richest person. “By 2012, his wealth stood at some $30 billion, making him the seventh-richest man in the world. And then the last 18 months happened.”


They Melt in Your Mouth Not in Your Algorithm

Google had an M&M problem. Employees were eating too much of the free candy placed in bowls around the office. So Google put engineers and behavioral psychologists on the problem. “What if the company kept the chocolates hidden in opaque containers but prominently displayed dried figs, pistachios and other healthful snacks in glass jars?” It turned out that employees consumed 3.1 million fewer M&M calories over a period of just seven weeks. Sounds like a good opportunity for Facebook and Apple to offer all the M&Ms you can eat, no judgment, no questions asked.


The Bottom of the News

Hasan Syed was irritated by the way a major airline handled the case of some missing luggage. So he Tweeted about it. That’s nothing new. But Syed then decided to pay to turn his complaint into a promoted Tweet. And now it’s all over the media. This could be the history’s loudest airline complaint. (And I’m pretty sure Twitter was invented to enable people to complain about airlines.)

+ Power out? Blame squirrels.

+ After years of construction, the eastern span of The Bay Bridge opened a few hours ahead of the most recent schedule.

+ Mixing art and science to create the perfect nap. Forget art and science, just mix up a few stiff drinks.

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