February 25th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Reason to Believe

It made sense in the old days. People felt a need to explain the world or mold the opinions of others, so they invented stories. Those stories spread. And eventually they were perceived as factual. But today, everything is different. We have the Internet. Every answer is just a search away. So why is nothing different? Why do hoaxes still play a dominant role in our lives? As Lyz Lenz writes in Aeon, “people believe the stories that they connect to, the ones that affirm their view of the world, truth be damned.”


But Never at Dusk

Deep thinkers from Aristotle to Ben Franklin have opined on the benefits of being a morning person. But is there a chance that they came up with their related adages during, dare I suggest, the mid-afternoon hours? It’s possible. Being an early bird is not necessarily superior and some people perform better later in the day. From The New Yorker’s Maria Konnikova: No, mornings don’t make you moral.


In the Crosshairs

“Justice served for Chris and the Littlefield family. To Eddie Ray Routh, you thought you had PTSD before? Wait till the boys in TDC (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) Find out you killed a TX hero.” That was fellow Seal Marcus Luttrel reacting to the guilty verdict in the American Sniper trial.


The Webmaster’s New Clothes

Craig Brittain got busted for making money and ruining lives by running a revenge-porn site and then charging people to have their stolen photos taken down. Now, in an attempt to finally achieve humanity’s perfect example of irony, Brittain has submitted a takedown notice to Google, requesting that the search engine delete links to some negative articles about him that used his photo without permission.


Sitting on the Doc of the Bay

The Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of John Yates who was accused of breaking a law known as the “Sarbanes-Oxley anti-shredding statute.” Essentially, no one is allowed to destroy documents in an effort to hide evidence of a crime. Only in this case, the “documents” were actually fish. From Quartz: The US Supreme Court has affirmed that fish are not an information-storage device.

+ Justice Kagan dissented and wrote this: “As the plurality must acknowledge, the ordinary meaning of ‘tangible object’ is ‘a discrete thing that possesses physical form.’ A fish is, of course, a discrete thing that possesses physical form. See generally Dr. Seuss, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960).” That quote was one of the greats, but alas, Yates still skates.


This Cannot Be Real

“The feeling of joy derived from the misfortunes of others, that makes you realize that your life is not so bad after all.” That’s either a reasonable definition of Schadenfreude, or a good explanation of why reality TV has survived and thrived. Pacific Standard’s Lizzie Schiffman Tufano provides a reality TV retrospective. Someone should do a reality show that features people on their couches bursting into tears as they realize that both Real World and Survivor are celebrating their 30th seasons.


My Struggle (To Fit Into My Pants)

“I had never seen people that fat before. The strange thing was that none of them looked as if they were trying to hide their enormous girth; quite the opposite, several people were wearing tight T-shirts with their big bellies sticking out proudly.” Karl Ove Knausgaard, famous for writing an enormous multi-volume book about himself called My Struggle, writes about himself in North America for the NYT Magazine.

+ If you are a Knausgaard groupie, then you will love this pillow I had made for wife for Valentine’s Day.


Run (Rate) For the Border

From Bloomberg: “The overachievers at Goldman Sachs aren’t all the same. Some have been valedictorians, or Navy SEALs, or the sons or grandsons of the company’s bankers. Some will stop at nothing to amass a fortune; others are patient. And at least one was an undocumented immigrant.”


If You Teach a Man to Be a Fish

Slot machines account for about 85% of the profits at casinos. Think about that for a second. A massive industry has been built by getting you to feed cash into a finely tuned machine that is specifically designed to take cash from people. That’s a trick worth understanding. From Brad Plumer in Vox: How casinos get you to spend more money.

+ If you’re going to let a machine trick you into spending more money, you might as well use the technology that is getting you to tip more. This is the ultimate example of the power of a good user interface.


The Bottom of the News

A group hoping to save the plastic bag from checkout obsolescence in California has gotten enough signatures to get the ban put on the ballot.

+ Those Lego Oscars were made by Nathan Sawaya. And let’s just put it this way, the statues were not nearly his best work.

+ From NY Mag: What It’s Like to Be a Polyamorous Genius. (Sadly, no one ever wants to know what it’s like to be a masturbatory punster.)

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