Monday, September 30th, 2013


Shut the F(ed) Up

From the looks of things, the federal government is heading towards a shutdown. The Atlantic Wire has a countdown to shutdown clock and a continually updating look at the state of the shutdown debate.

+ Quartz: "Initially, a shutdown will be little more than a symbol of US dysfunction, but each passing day will make its economic impact more tangible, especially if prolonged squabbling spooks consumer and business confidence." Who will notice the shutdown?

+ A shutdown could leave about 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck. WaPo has a detailed agency by agency rundown of the impact.

+ If you were hoping that a government shutdown would at least mean members of Congress would shut up, I've got some bad news. Thanks to the 27th Amendement, even in a shutdown, Congressional members still get paid.


Spies Like Us

A mountain of your personal information is accessible to anyone with a computer and an easily obtained subpoena. The always excellent Center for Investigative Reporting has teamed with NPR to explain how easy it is to find your personal information and use it against you. "Often, a simple form is all that's required to access prescription histories, credit card purchases, monthly banking statements, ATM withdrawals, wire transfers, tax returns and, perhaps most importantly, the rich digital portraits we keep on our smartphones."

+ Aeon's Stuart Armstrong examines the contrarian view. "In the future, most people will live in a total surveillance state -- and some of us might even like it."

+ Maybe we should just go back to spying on each other the old fashioned way: With ravens, pigeons, and cats.


Terror Talk

The NYT looks at the ways leaks, including those made by Edward Snowden, have impacted U.S. intelligence. "Instead of terrorists moving away from electronic communications after those disclosures, analysts have detected terrorists mainly talking about the information that Mr. Snowden has disclosed."

+ Samantha Lewthwaite, better known as the White Widow, is believed to be a key player in the Kenya mall attack. According to investigators, she rented a shop in the mall several months before the attack, and escaped the scene by smearing blood on her face.



The Globe and Mail takes an in-depth look inside the fall of Blackberry: "The problem wasn't that we stopped listening to customers. We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did." I'm pretty sure Steve Jobs thought he knew better than his customers. The difference was that he was right.

+ Apple has unseated Coca Cola as the world's most valuable brand. Google is number two.

+ You want to make it on the Internet? Here's a tip from Evan Williams of Twitter and Blogger fame: "Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time … Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps."


The Bling Fling

"If you're between 8 and 18, you spend more than 11 hours a day plugged into an electronic device. The average American teen now spends nearly every waking moment on a smart phone or computer or watching TV. This seismic shift in how kids spend their time is having a profound effect on the way they make friends, the way they date, and their introduction to the world of sex." Vanity Fair's Nancy Jo Sales (of Bling Ring fame) takes a look at what Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Instagram, and Internet porn are doing to America's teenage girls: Friends Without Benefits.

+ Over the weekend, I watched the movie Disconnect. It's an excellent movie that provides an interesting look into our search for human connections in an always on world.


The Partnership

At his ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, Bernie Taupin will often spend weeks working on the lyrics for a new song. He then delivers those lyrics to Elton John who puts them to music in an incredibly short amount of time. "I get bored if it takes more than 40 minutes." This working style has worked well enough to sell more than 250 million albums.


Inner Beauty

Want to look younger than your years? You can try night creams or other treatments that supposedly help your skin. But according to some research, the key to looking younger comes from within. (I still prefer my strategy for looking young. Have a great artist illustrate your head, and then never be seen in public again.)

+ Or just sleep on your back and dine out alone once a week. That's the advice given by Harry Rosen. And he's 103.

+ NPR: Kombucha: Magical Health Elixir Or Just Funky Tea?


Suspicious Minds

"Remember that crazy story about the dude in Mississippi who mailed ricin to Obama and then tried to frame some other dude in Mississippi for the crime? Well ... the story is a thousand times crazier than you thought." From GQ's Wells Tower: The Elvis Impersonator, the Karate Instructor, a Fridge Full of Severed Heads, and the Plot 2 Kill the President.


In Training

"The teen recruits must eventually leave their families to live with their teams, spending 12 hours a day in training and up to 250 days competing and traveling away from home." Welcome to the world of professional video game players.

+ There are the players, and there are the spectators. It turns out that watching people play video games is an increasingly popular online activity. Just ask the folks who run Twitch.


The Bottom of the News

You had the finale of Breaking Bad, the season premiere of Homeland, and few other big television events. But the weekend still belonged to Blerta. Check out SNL's parody of Girls starring Tina Fey as the newest girl. Even Lena Dunham was watching it.

+ The new sports drink: Chocolate Milk.

+ There are about 1.2 billion people on Facebook. And now you can see them all on a single page.