Wednesday, January 21st, 2015


Keeping it Up with the Kardashians

The memes. The viral puppy videos. The butt. We like to share and we're increasingly driven towards talking about the same thing at the same time. Someone's got to figure out a way to keep Internet sites up during our temporary obsessions. And it's not easy. As Paul Ford explains, "You can't just put Kim Kardashian n_des on the Internet and walk away -- that would be like putting up a tent in the middle of a hurricane. Your web server would melt. You need to plan." From The Message: How Paper Magazine's web engineers scaled their back-end for Kim Kardashian.


Following Your Gut

Somewhere, right about now, researchers from MIT are searching through a treasure trove of clues that will enable them to better understand a city and its residents. "These researchers -- who include architects, computational biologists, designers, electrical and mechanical engineers, geneticists, and microbiologists -- will be testing an idea that's attracting interest around the world: namely, that sewage can tell us important things about the people who excrete it."

+ Perhaps the promise of advancing science isn't quite enough to make you want to head for the sewers. Well maybe this is: There's gold in them thar sewers -- tons and tons of it.


Standup/Sitdown Comedy

The State of the Union is this: We can't even get everyone standing for faster Internet service. The moment when President Obama called for faster broadband for everyone served as microcosm of the entire evening (and the entire nation). About half the people stood, about half remained seated. Peter Baker sums up the SOTU in the NYT: Bold call to action in Obama's State of the Union, even if no action is likely.

+ WaPo provides an interactive version of the address, including a breakdown of how much time was spent on each topic.

+ You can watch a four minute version of the speech. Or maybe you'd prefer to review the key moments in animated GIFs (courtesy of PBS Newshour ... seriously.)

+ And of course, there was The Burn. Now, I bet North Korea and ISIS will think twice about sending hecklers to attack our shores.


Teenage Chasteland

During his address, Obama mentioned the dramatic drop in teenage pregnancies. And that's good news. But as Sarah Kliff explains in Vox, there's something uniquely frustrating about the recent, steep decline in teen birth rates: nobody knows why it's happened."


There Will be a Test

"Emilio Gonzalez cooks chili, eggs, soup, oatmeal, and 13 other foods a few times per month." But no one eats it. Gonzalez is part of the dishwasher testing team at Consumer Reports. Joseph Stromberg gets an inside look at how the magazine obsessively tests snowblowers, cookies, cars, and toilets.

+ JCPenney is bringing back its print catalog.



"He grabbed me by the shirt, and he held a knife to my throat and told me he was going to cut me. I told him -- I said, 'go ahead and cut me.' And I said, 'I'll be coming back, and I'll hunt your ass.'" NPR's excellent new series called Invisibila tackles the subject of fear -- from us having too much to the woman who has none.

+ WaPo: Meet the woman who can't feel fear.


The Price of Salvation

If you've ever spent a long time going back and forth about a possible purchase on Amazon, then you've likely noticed that, without warning, the price of that item can change. This is by design. From Quartz, Amazon changed the price of the Bible over 100 times in five years. (I'm loading my shopping cart with books by Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens just to see how low I can get the price...)


Consciousness Uncoupling

"Few people doubted that the brain and mind were very closely linked: if you question this, try stabbing your brain repeatedly with a kitchen knife, and see what happens to your consciousness." The Guardian's Oliver Burkeman wonders why the world's greatest minds can't solve the mystery of consciousness? (I can't do a Rubik's cube.)


To Air is Human

Tony Verna died this week at the age of 81. You might not know his name, but you definitely know his work. During an Army-Navy game on Dec. 7, 1963, Verna invented instant replay.

+ DeflateGate: After their recent playoff win against the Colts, the New England Patriots were accused of deflating the footballs to gain some kind of an edge. After looking into the situation, the NFL says 11 of 12 Patriots footballs inspected were under-inflated.

+ How the Patriots became the NFL's least-trusted team.

+ "Teeth knocked out, gums ripped apart, cheeks sliced open, jaws broken into pieces." From Bleacher Report, Blood, Sweat and Teeth: Wild Nights with an NHL Dentist.


The Bottom of the News

"At some point every car in San Francisco will be an Uber and every citizen, a driver, so I shouldn't have been surprised when a random stranger walked up to my car, opened the passenger door, and started to take a seat." The Awl's Matthew J.X. Malady on why you should always lock your car doors in San Francisco.

+ Buzzfeed: The history of the American economy, told through Super Bowl ads.

+ The Daily Beast: "1,715 TV series aired in 2014, of which 352 were scripted. That is absolutely insane. It's also changing our lives." There's too much damn TV.

+ See how much the "perfect" female body has changed in 100 years.