Wednesday, September 18th, 2013


The Dead End

With its increasingly effective search product, Google changed the way we access information. The company's email product has made enough advances to leave other webmail providers in the dust. YouTube changed the way we consume video. Google Maps helped lead us in the the right direction. Search, check. Email, check. Video, check. Maps, check. So what's next? Apparently extending the human lifespan. In this cover story, Time's Harry McCracken and Lev Grossman talk to Larry Page and others about Google's latest "moon shot" called Calico and wonder: Can Google Solve Death? From Larry Page: "We should be spending a commensurate amount with what normal types of companies spend on research and development, and spend it on things that are a little more long-term and a little more ambitious than people normally would." Stay tuned. I'll be writing a follow-up to this story in a few hundred years.


Cable News Nonsense

"No no, those aren't interesting developments. You're just standing in front of a camera naming shit you see." So said Jon Stewart as he skewered the cable news networks, especially CNN, for their "sheer accumulation of breathtaking wrongness" during the aftermath of the Navy Yard shooting coverage.

+ This kind of coverage -- misinformation spreading through social networks and mainstream news outlets -- has become a common theme in recent years. The race to be first is run at the expense of the race to be right. We saw it in Newtown. We saw it in the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. As I wrote in this NextDraft Original, the mainstream media needs to Get Off My Stoop.


How Evil Should You Be?

At one point in the new (and highly acclaimed) Grand Theft Auto V game, players are required "to rotate the game controller's sticks in order to tug out the victim's teeth with pliers." Such torture seems a bit extreme even by today's video game standards. In The New Yorker, Simon Parkin asks: How evil should a video game allow you to be?

+ Some research has shown that playing violent video games desensitizes people as to what constitutes inappropriately aggressive behavior. I'm becoming more and more certain that my dentist plays a lot of violent video games...

+ "1:58 p.m.: This is my first bathroom break." Buzzfeed's Joseph Bernstein finished Grand Theft Auto V in one 38-hour sitting.

+ In Staten Island, three guys posed as police officers to cut in line and get their copy of the new game. On the plus side, they should be out of jail in time for Grand Theft Auto VI.


Getting an A in Play

When schools face budget constraints, physical fitness classes are often the first to go. But that strategy flies in the face of an increasing body of evidence that suggests that fitness can help kids absorb information and do better in school.

+ Aeon Magazine's Peter Gray has written an interesting piece on The Play Deficit: "You can't teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom, and it blossoms in play."


An AK Frappuccino

How risky is it to even wade a few inches into the gun rights debate? Just ask Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Today, he announced the company's policy that seeks to keep guns out of its cafes. Sort of. "Under the change, baristas and other store employees will not ask customers who come in with guns in holsters, say, to leave or confront them in any way, Mr. Schultz said. No signs explaining the policy will be posted in Starbucks stores, either." According to Schultz: "We are going to serve them as we would serve anyone else." In other words, it's still a good idea to think twice before asking for another shot with your Frappuccino.

+ Imagine if, a month before his Navy Yard rampage, Aaron Alexis had reported to police that he was hearing voices coming from the floor and ceiling, and being bombarded with vibrations by a mysterious microwave machine. Well, he did just that.

+ "The next mass shooting will take place on February 12, 2014, in Spokane, Washington." The Atlantic's Philip Bump on what the data tells us about the next mass shooting.

+ Four years ago, Priscilla Daniels lost her son to gun violence on the streets of D.C. This week, her husband was one of the Navy Yard victims.


It’s Like Crack for Crackheads

Columbia professor Carl Hart has spent a lot of time studying people who are seemingly addicted to crack or meth. And his findings might surprise you. Often, when given the choice between taking more of the drug or getting some other reward (such as the promise of a small cash payment), the drug "addicts" choose the latter. Hart explains: "The key factor is the environment, whether you're talking about humans or rat. The rats that keep pressing the lever for cocaine are the ones who are stressed out because they've been raised in solitary conditions and have no other options. But when you enrich their environment, and give them access to sweets and let them play with other rats, they stop pressing the lever." Interesting stuff from the NYT: The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts.


Lucky Seven?

While there's a lot of news out there today, almost everyone in my Twitter stream is talking about one thing: Today's availability of iOS 7. I think my iPhone is using Apple Maps to find its iOS7 update, because I haven't been able to get it all day. From ArsTechnica, here's a thorough review of iOS 7.

+ The Verge: The best hidden features in iOS 7.

+ AtlanticWire: Everything you need to know about the iPhone 5c and 5s reviews in one table.


Miss Piggybank

"If you're an artist, an innovator, or a creative person, this scenario should sound familiar to you. We may go into a career because of our values, our ideals, our art, but the reality of capitalism opposes us. Our dreams just don't pay the bills. So what exactly is an artist to do?" From Longreads: On Muppets & Merchandise: How Jim Henson Turned His Art into a Business.


The Great Wall of Kombucha

"Whole Foods is like Vegas. You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease ... Seriously, think about Heaven and then think about Whole Foods; they're basically the same." Kelly MacLean on Surviving Whole Foods.


The Bottom of the News

If you are of a certain age, there are few things that get you as pumped up as a Rocky workout montage. Dan McQuade of The Philly Post wondered, based on the film's scenes, just how far Rocky went in his training run in Rocky II. Turns out it was about thirty miles. Oh well, it probably beats chasing a chicken.

+ Want to fly like an eagle? Thanks to a GoPro camera, you can.

+ Remember that little kid, Danny, from The Shining? Well, he's all grown up and back for more in Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. Redrum...

+ Here's a really good visual explanation of why you should never slide headfirst.