Friday, October 25th, 2013


No Comment

A few years ago, one of my essays appeared on a major news site. The first several comments were wildly negative. So, using a fake name, I posted a complimentary comment about the article and its highly talented author. The momentum shifted. Almost all of the new comments were positive. The world of Internet comments is endlessly interesting. On one hand, web comments often display the worst of human behavior (hate, cynicism, prejudice, spelling errors). I've often argued that every page with web comments should be sponsored by antidepressants. On the other hand, comments can often add value to a discussion, or, in some cases, provide a nourishing and supportive environment to share data or get valuable feedback. What determines what kind of comments you'll find? Is it anonymity vs using real names? It turns out it's not that simple. From The New Yorker's Maria Konnikova, here's a look at the weird psychology of online comments.


Road Conditions

What's the penalty for driving while texting? The answer to that question varies widely and depends on the state where you're driving. Californians get off cheap (and it sure seems like every one of them is texting). Alaskans are the toughest on the behavior (up to $10,000 and a year in jail). Four states don't ban the behavior at all. Why does this matter? The number one cause of death for teenage drivers is texting (it overtook drinking). And in general, we all agree it's bad and most of us do it anyway.


Weekend Reads

"'Why do you think she did it?' I asked as we stepped back into the sunlight. For that's all any of us were thinking, had been thinking since we got the news." David Sedaris reflects on his sister's suicide: Now We Are Five.

+ "My old man would sit there for hours, in his underwear, playing games. He wasn't into golf or sports cars or expensive booze. He was really into sitting in his underwear and pushing buttons and winning games ... He admired three people: Jesus, Patsy Cline, and Link, the hero of his all-time favorite game. That game was The Legend of Zelda, which he would play and defeat and play again." John Devore: Son of Pong.

+ "I don't vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I'd have the right to vote. Well, they were conned. As far as I'm concerned there is nothing to vote for." Russell Brand wants a revolution.

"But Ayungin is different. In the reef's shallows there sits a forsaken ship, manned by eight Filipino troops whose job is to keep China in check." From the NYT Magazine, a well-designed piece called A Game of Shark and Minnow.

+ PBS Newshour: The 37 year-old refugee situation you know nothing about.



While U.S. officials are attempting to smooth over ruffled relations with allies whose leaders have been spied on, there is a new leak to worry about. Some countries that are not, at least publicly, considered allies often secretly cooperate with the U.S. When it came to domestic surveillance, the Snowden leaks seemed like they did us a favor. It could be an entirely different story as the international material continues to spill out.


Killing Pain (and everything else)

Illegal drugs get all the headlines. But prescription drugs account for three-quarters of all overdose deaths in the U.S. Now the FDA is looking to crack down with tighter rules relating to the prescribing of one of the biggest culprits. Pain killers. It turns out, they kill the pain, and then some.


The Crash of the Zuckerberg?

According to the latest Piper Jaffray report, 26% of teens name Twitter as their most important social network. Only 23% named Facebook (and that's down from 42%). Surveys are one thing and usage is another. And every teen I know lives on Facebook (and thankfully, almost none of them follows me on Twitter). But these numbers will be interesting to watch as Twitter's IPO gives the company more dough to compete.

+ From the folks who built Obama's campaign site: Why the Government Never Gets Tech Right. Hint: It relates to why they don't get a lot of other stuff right either.


Break on Through

The way I read this article, the printing press showed up around 1430, electricity came along in the late 19th century, the Internet first rumbled in the 1960s, my parents had a glass or two of wine one night, and now you're reading this excellent summary of the day's most fascinating news. From The Atlantic: The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel.

+ And from Smithsonian: 101 Objects that made America.


The Check Out Counter

The company has more than 1,800 outlets and 20,000 employees. That's just the beginning. It's about to get a lot bigger, especially in key areas like West Palm. Even if you've never heard of them, it's pretty likely that you'll be a customer of theirs one day. And this is one company that prides itself on thinking inside the box. BloombergBusinessweek takes you inside Service Corporation International - the king of funeral homes.


Suddenly, Last Summer

Brett Favre is 44. And teams are once again trying to get him back onto an NFL field. But this time around, he's also in the news for another reason. He can't remember when his daughter played youth soccer.


The Bottom of the News

Ever wonder why so many taxis around the world are yellow? It's either because of the findings of university study aimed at ascertaining which color stands out at a distance. Or because one fleet owner's wife preferred that color.

+ A brief history of the word dude.

+ Photographs taken within Grand Theft Auto.

+ Hollywood screenwriters teach you how to write an awesome movie.

+ Arcade Fire's new album comes out next week. But you can listen to it right now.