Monday, November 17th, 2014


Something Strange in the Neighborhood

There's an order to things when a neighborhood gentrifies. A scrappy company moves into some cheap office space. A dive bar gets hip. Exposed brick becomes a feature, not a bug. Facades improve. Rents go up. Graffiti becomes street art. People get dogs they can carry. Milk is replaced by soy which is replaced by almond. Parking gets tough. Facial hair turns ironic. Long-johns evolve into yoga pants. GMO-free wet cat food becomes a thing. A new Whole Foods breaks ground. The family next door gets chickens. And someone in a Tesla who's drinking artisanal kombucha gives you a dirty look for inadequate composting. But what if things went out of order? What if the Whole Foods opened first? We're about to find out because Whole Foods is moving into one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago. From WaPo's Emily Badger: "This store, though, is no act of philanthropy. Nor is it a bet, by Whole Foods, on neighborhood change. The arrival of its gleaming stores in a neighborhood often signals the influx of wealthier residents. But that is not likely to happen in Englewood, at least not any time soon. Whole Foods is planning to sell olive oil and snap peas to the people who live here now."


Getting Rid of the Middleman

"Fourteen years ago, while I was staying at the Taliban madrasa, its administrators were launching a Web site. I remember being amused by this. I shouldn't have been. There is no need for a middleman now. Journalists have been replaced by YouTube and Twitter. And when there is no need for us, we become targets." Jeffrey Goldberg remembers a time when Islamist extremists wanted to persuade reporters, not kill them -- before the beheadings.

+ Following the brutal killing of Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old American aid worker, ISIS has one remaining American hostage. A woman who "was kidnapped while trying to help people whose lives have been upended by the long Syrian civil war. She was particularly moved to help children who have been orphaned and separated from their families."


False Negative

"We were celebrating. If the test says you are Ebola-free, we assume you are Ebola-free. Then everything fell apart." Martin Salia, a doctor who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, died in an Omaha hospital.

+ Could beating Ebola hinge, in part, on drinking a gallon of water a day?


This is Not for Kids

A high poverty rate, a lack of affordable housing, and pervasive domestic violence are some of the key factors that have led to a disturbing statistic: One out of thirty American kids are homeless.


The Inheritance Tax

"The children of survivors -- a surprising number of them, anyway -- may be born less able to metabolize stress. They may be born more susceptible to PTSD, a vulnerability expressed in their molecules, neurons, cells, and genes." Is it possible that kids can inherit their parents suffering? (This explains why my kids both scream anytime I open more than three browser tabs.)


Backseat Freestyle?

You can now play your personal cat videos in an Uber. Well, almost. Thanks to a deal between the two companies, you'll soon be able to play your own Spotify playlist in an Uber. (Or you could, you know, get a car.) FWIW, NYC Taxis already allow you to play your own music from any service during rides. On your own headphones. As the Good Lord intended.

+ By almost any measurement, Uber is huge and getting huger. SF Mag's Ellen Cushing spends some time with its CEO Travis Kalanick. He's a controversial guy, but there's no controversy around the fact that he's a hell of a wheelman: The Smartest Bro in the Room.


Call of Booty

"Three years ago, he was flipping burgers at McDonald's. Today Mr. Haag, 22, skinny and blindingly pale, makes his living playing Call of Duty, a popular series of war games where players run around trying to shoot one another." And as the NYT reports, Mr. Haag makes about a million bucks a year "sitting in a soft chair smashing buttons."

+ The New Yorker's Ben McGrath on the rise of the professional cyber athlete. (Sidenote to my kids: Daddy will be coming home from work late again today...)

+ Facebook is rumored to be planning a version of its service designed for the workplace. That's bad news for those of us who got a job to avoid Facebook.


Sticks and Smileys

Between Instagram and animated GIFs, we are neck deep in the age of visual communication. And now emoji are hotter than ever. NY Mag's Adam Sternbergh shares what could be one of the reasons why: "Emoji are not, it turns out, well designed to convey meanness. They are cartoons, first of all. And the emoji that exist -- while very useful for conveying excitement, happiness, bemusement, befuddlement, and even love -- are not very good at conveying anger, derision, or hate." I guess we'll leave that up to the rest of the Internet.


Birthday Suit

One day in high school, my friend Karen said she liked my outfit. So I wore the same outfit every day for a week. I've officially been outdone. In order to shed light on the sexism and double standards facing his female colleagues, TV host Karl Stefanovic wore the exact same suit every day for one year.


The Bottom of the News

NYC authorities recently announced a change that will mean an end to arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Coincidentally, Woody Harrelson was the host of SNL.

+ We're running out of chocolate.

+ "A two-time Krispy Kreme Challenge winner has managed to run two miles to Krispy Kreme, stop and eat 12 doughnuts, then run two more miles in only an hour." Add in a blender and you've got yourself the perfect energy and performance drink.

+ "What is being referred to as the sheep incident has shaken up Fresno State after a student heard noises coming from a barn ... The unidentified student responsible for the deed told police he had drank alcohol and was stressed out about a midterm." Uh, that must have been a hell of a test.