Friday, May 23rd, 2014


The Algorithm Method

When you search, it decides what you'll find. It tells you what to read and what to watch on TV. When you're ready to settle down, it finds you a match. (If you're not careful, it will even try to point you to the day's most fascinating news). It is the algorithm. And it's playing an increasingly important role in your life. Here's a look at the 10 algorithms that dominate our world.

+ The computers are taking over. But at least they can make a decent BBQ sauce.


Death Valley

With lethal injection drugs in scarce supply, states are looking for other means to execute their executions. Tennessee is bringing back the electric chair. Not to be outdone, Wyoming is considering firing squads.


Weekend Reads

"We were sitting at the kitchen table. I was having some coffee, and he said he had something important to tell me. He said he had a second job as a part-time bank robber. The way he looked at me, I knew he wasn't kidding." In Texas Monthly, Skip Hollandsworth shares the story of a dad who robbed banks, with his family. (My kids would only come with me on a bank robbery if I agreed to bring the iPad.)

+ "About 2½ hours into their six-hour climb to Camp 2, the sun had come up and Kaji's group was nearing the top of the icefall. Kaji could see Sherpas from various expeditions strung out along the route above and below him. Then he heard an enormous crack, 'like thunder.'" The Wall Street Journal has a detailed, interactive piece on Sherpas, Fate and the Dangerous Business of Everest.

+ "Facebook and WhatsApp, Uber and Nest, the brightest minds of a generation, the high test-scorers and mathematically inclined, have taken the knowledge acquired at our most august institutions and applied themselves to solving increasingly minor First World problems." From NY Mag's Jessica Pressler: Let's, Like, Demolish Laundry.

+ The Atlantic: The bike-helmet law that helped trigger an insurgency in Nigeria

+ Lauren Morelli: While writing for Orange Is the New Black, I realized I am gay.

+ Once those pieces have you warmed up, you can move on to Conor Friedersdorf's list of slightly more than 100 fantastic pieces of journalism.


Blasphemy Not Included

Twitter has agreed to block so-called blasphemous tweets in Pakistan. The company "argues that it is a lesser evil to block specific tweets that might violate local laws than to have the entire site blocked in certain countries." That argument might sound like blasphemy to some people.


It’s in Your Mind

Stress can affect your health. So it makes sense that extreme stress or mental illness would take any even greater toll on your physical well-being. A recent study found that mental disorders can reduce your life expectancy even more than smoking 20 cigarettes a day.

+ NYT Magazine: Can PTSD be more effectively treated if you start by treating the body?


Famous Last Words

"I looked at him and said one more time, ‘Who shot you?' He looked at me and he took a breath to get the words out, and he opened his mouth, and I thought I was actually going to get some cooperation. And then the words came out: ‘Fuck you.'" Sean DeFrank on the last words of Tupac Shakur.


Making Out Like a Bandit

"I suspect my daughter, years from now, will still be getting checks." That's one of the actors from Shawshank Redemption describing the movie's life sentence of residual checks. It's rated the best movie ever by IMDB users and it's basically always on TV. The WSJ's Russell Adams explains how one of Hollywood's great second acts keeps making money.

+ Five movies that dominate television.

+ Related: Morgan Freeman on Helium.


Are You Cool?

Can one really describe what makes someone cool? A couple of researchers gave it a shot and came up with this definition: "Coolness is a subjective, positive trait perceived in people, brands, products, and trends that are autonomous in an appropriate way."

+ Do you have an ironic mustache and like drinking beverages out of mason jars? Sorry, these Slurpee cups just ended your cool forever.


The Review Whisperer

No one brings out inspired writing from movie reviewers quite like Adam Sandler. Here's A.O. Scott: "Blended has the look and pacing of a three-camera sitcom filmed by a bunch of eighth graders and conceived by their less bright classmates. Shots don't match. Jokes misfire. Gags that are visible from a mile away fail to deliver." And here's Richard Brody in his review, Blended is a Failure for the Ages: "The romance is sweet and even effervescent, the comedy is homespun and sentimental, but it's packaged with such a repellent batch of stereotypes and prejudices that it's unpalatable even to contemplate."


The Bottom of the News

Looking to get your favorite band to play at an upcoming event? Pricenomics has been kind enough to put together a rough-estimate rate card so you'll know how much it might cost you. My parents actually tried to book Barry Manilow for my bar mitzvah. Alas, he was booked. (Thankfully, so was Macklemore...)

+ Someone in Palo Alto would like their missing drone back.

+ What the hell is the whole nine yards?

+ Whoever came up with the idea for celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves should receive a Nobel prize.