Friday, November 7th, 2014


Do Not Pick Up

The Internet is weird. And the weirdness is usually pretty fun. Like when we all tried to figure out the mystery behind the wildly photogenic Alex from Target. Sometimes the weirdness is not fun. "For every randomly beloved Alex, there is someone who wakes up one day, without warning, on the pitchfork end of an internet mob." Warhol promised us all fifteen minutes of fame. And that might be about as much as we can take. Maureen O'Connor in NY Mag: Alex from Target and the Mess of Uncontrollable Fame.

+ Sometimes the motives of the mob are clear. Sometimes, they're not. So Brock Wilbur is left with a question: Who The Hell Keeps Calling Me?

+ Even people who spend their careers building web businesses and deep-thinking about technology often find it impossible to understand what makes something or someone go viral. From Buzzfeed's Ryan Broderick: Meet the network of guys making thousands of dollars tweeting as 'common white girls.'


Mister Ed

A lot of students get loans to pay tuition at for-profit colleges, where federal grants and loans can account for as much as 90% of revenues. The Dept of Education wants these schools to prove they provide students with the tools for gainful employment in order to continue to be eligible for federal student loans and grants. A group representing the schools has responded with "a 77-page lawsuit asking a federal judge to strike down the gainful employment rule that threatens to take away for-profit college's access to federal student aid." Hopefully they'll be forced to use lawyers who graduated from for-profit colleges.


Weekend Reads

"It was like watching an old lady get mugged on the street. I thought, 'I can't sit by any longer." In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi on why JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep this woman from talking. The $9 billion witness.

+ "Hour after hour, this terrible fever. What the hell am I doing? I kept asking myself. Why am I forcing a fine new machine to pretend it is a half-dozen old, useless machines? Eventually I realized: This might be about my friend Tom dying." Paul Ford: The Sixth Stage of Grief Is Retro-computing.

+ "Blood rushes to my cheeks. I desperately want my next sentence to calm her down, to sound confident, sympathetic. I want this customer -- my customer -- to feel assuaged." It takes a unique person to calm us down when we're calling customer service. Gabriel Bristol discovered he had a special talent for appeasing angry customers. That skill helped him go from being homeless to being a CEO.

+ "If someone had told that man he'd have eight more years with that boy, eight happy, normal years, he would have kissed them and wept for joy. But this man, in 2014, is pissed. He wants to punch that person in the fucking face." Ken Norton remembers his son Riley: Alone Time. Read it. Then go hug your kids. (And if you know Ken, hug him too.)


This Could Sting

Following this week's GOP election sweep, President Obama was expecting lawmakers to challenge the Affordable Care Act. But the most immediate challenge might come from the other branch of government as the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge that could make the program unworkable.


Is It Truth?

Someone forwards an email to you and asks, "Is this true?" You know it sounds wrong, so you do a search and you quickly find a site that debunks the rumor. And that site always turns out to be Snopes. David Mikkelson has been calling out bullshit on the Internet for two decades. (That sounds like a job that would keep someone pretty busy.)


Too Much, Too Late

"The allegations include accusations of priests plying young victims with alcohol and cigarettes, of fondling, masturbating, and performing oral sex on minors, and a strong current of denial and well-documented coverup by the church that can be traced all the way to Rome." A retiring Cardinal in Chicago has released "more than 15,000 pages from the secret archives of the Chicago Archdiocese's Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review."


Wake the Eff Up

"In the dead of night, drowsy brains can conjure up new ideas from the debris of dreams and apply them to our creative pursuits." Now I know why I haven't had any creative or interesting thoughts for so long. I've been sleeping right through them.


It’s Almost Time for the Holidays!

"It wasn't until my 30s that I connected all this and it dawned on me that sleeping for three days is not normal or OK, and that the only times I woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe, I was at Grandma's." John Reed in Vice: My Grandma the Poisoner. (And I get upset when my relatives are passive-aggressive about who's bringing the mashed potatoes.)

+ And from Michelle Tea: My Stepfather, The Peeping Tom.


Is There an Echo In Here?

"Think a less portable Siri or Google Now, but hands-free. Are you ready to bring an eavesdropping device that's connected to the cloud into the privacy of your abode?" Introducing the Amazon Echo. a new listening speaker that sits in the corner of your room and will respond to your voice. I asked my Amazon Echo "Is there an Echo in here?" And it ordered me another Echo. (Seriously, I don't need another connected device sitting in my living room and judging me. I have a cat for that.)


The Bottom of the News

"To stay relevant and increase demand for potatoes, it will be critical to understand Millennials and how potatoes fit into their lives." Alexis C. Madrigal with a thinkpiece on Millennials and potatoes. Between researchers, their peers, their devices, and themselves, the Millennials are by far the most-observed generation ever.

+ Syndicated from Kottke: When you look really closely at record grooves, like at 1000x magnification, you can see the waveforms of the music itself.

+ Any watcher of late-night TV infomercials knew the Alpaca craze was not going to end well.