Tuesday, October 28th, 2014


Say Anything?

Berkeley is no stranger to protests. But it might surprise you to learn that the latest protest to emerge from the birthplace of the free speech movement is aimed at getting someone not to speak. Following his recent controversial statements about Muslims, more than 1,400 students have signed a petition urging the university to drop Bill Maher from the school's mid-year commencement proceedings. I doubt I'd pick Maher as my graduation speaker (and let's be honest, I'm not sure giving a mid-year commencement address is exactly a great gig for him), but I worry about the broader trend -- at universities, and on the Internet -- of forcing those with an opposing or even offensive opinion to keep it to themselves. The Internet promised an era of say anything; but instead we seem to be in the age of STFU.


Mail Pattern Boldness

The USPS approved nearly 50,000 requests from law enforcement last year, and many of those were approved "without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization." And for anyone who's ever stood in line at a post office, this will be the least surprising part of the report from Ron Nixon in the NYT: "Many requests were not processed in time, the audit said, and computer errors caused the same tracking number to be assigned to different surveillance requests."

+ While the Post Office is sharing your mail, everyone else is attacking your digital data. According to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, 18.5 million people in her state have had their information exposed. At this point, I'm going to have to revert to communicating via smoke signals (and those are only legal in Colorado and Washington).


Hypocritical Oath?

"With the fear factor going out of control in so many places, I hope health care professionals will understand that when they took their oath to become a health care worker it was precisely for moments like this." So said World Bank Chief Jim Yong Kim. It might help if we didn't lock them up when they got back.


Give It One Shot

After creating the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk left billions on the table when he didn't patent his vaccine. He famously explained: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?" From The Atlantic: On the 100th anniversary of Jonas Salk's birth, his son Peter talks about the backlash against vaccines and other human factors that make it difficult to eradicate deadly viruses.

+ Slate: The polio vaccine isn't patented. Today's Google Doodle about Jonas Salk is.

+ Of course, Google is in the health business as well. Right now, they're working on "a system for early detection of disease that involves ingesting specially 'painted' nanoparticles that target various molecular harbingers of disorder." (Once the nanoparticles pass through your digestive tract, they are released as vaporous contextual ads.)


Making Money

"After his plea deal had been signed, it became clear that Bourassa had purchased enough paper to print $250 million. 'The deal was already done when they figured out that the $50 million was missing, so there was nothing they could do. So they're pissed. They're as pissed as pissed could be.' Bourassa isn't saying where the extra $50 million went." GQ's Wells Tower on Frank Bourassa: the most prolific counterfeiter in American history.

+ The Guardian: Why would someone steal the world's rarest water lily? Because it was rare.

+ Will Colorado inmate Douglas Alward escape from prison? Well, here's one indication: He's done it seven times before.


Putting the Chart Before the Horse

I don't believe it. I have my hardfast opinion. You are wrong and you can't change my mind no matter what you do. Oh, wait. Hmm. That's a very nice chart. OK, maybe you're right.


Katz Game

As Jordan Weissman explains, NYC's Katz Deli is "a place that, for a certain kind of American Jew, might trump the Western Wall in the hierarchy of Hebraic cultural heritage sites." Here's how they stay in business.

+ (Tangentially) Related: Pope says God is not "a magician with a magic wand."


Matchmaker, Matchmaker Swipe Me a Match

"It's the simplest dating app there is: In most instances, a user merely sees a photo of a potential mate and either swipes left ('No thanks') or right ('I'm interested'). If both people swipe right, 'It's a match!' and the users can message each other." And with that example of gamification meets titillation, Tinder has changed the way single people get together.
Vox: A woman walked around New York City for 10 hours and filmed every catcall she received.


The Flow

"We are making these arrangements to provide for a means of closure. You can only imagine the frustration as well as … despair they're going through." Some residents of the community of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island have to watch as a lava flow slowly approaches their homes.


The Bottom of the News

The French minister for culture is under fire after she explained that, over the past two years, she's had no time to read novels. I don't even have time to read this article (or to come up with a better line than that).

+ The Secret Service isn't the only security detail with some explaining to do. Somehow, a jogger on an afternoon run managed to collide with the UK Prime Minister. From the jogger: "I kind of wish I had been protesting something or I had had something to say."

+ Is it possible to die from two much caffeine? Yes, if you drank about 140 cups in one day.