October 2nd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Brain Teaser

Paul Allen helped build Microsoft and is worth more than $17 billion. Some entrepreneurs in similar positions focus on getting us to Mars or putting an end to death. Allen has taken on a similarly monumental task. He wants to decode the human brain and build a new one. According to WaPo’s Ariana Eunjung Cha: “The first project is to build an artificial brain from scratch that can pass a high school science test. It sounds simple enough, but trying to teach a machine not only to respond but also to reason is one of the hardest software engineering endeavors attempted.” (I spent four years trying to train an underdeveloped brain to pass high school science. In my experience, it can’t be done.)


Gun Rerun

At this point, the news coverage and reactions to mass shootings in America seem like a re-run. Meanwhile, we get no closer to canceling this bleak series. Here’s what we know about the shooter. And here’s what we know about one of the heroes who was shot several times as he said, “It’s my son’s birthday, it’s my son’s birthday.”

+ How often does this series air? So far in 2015, we’ve had 274 days and 294 mass shootings.

+ “We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones due to our inaction.” President Obama had to make yet another statement about a mass shooting. And to make it even more clear that this is an ongoing series, the NYT put together a video of Obama’s increasingly frustrated reactions to the violence over the years.

+ The New Yorker: Obama, Guns, and the Politics of Hopelessness.

+ Quartz says it’s time to change the way the media cover mass shootings. And Polly Mosendz explains what It’s like to report on mass shootings routinely.

+ And from WaPo: 11 essential facts about guns in America. Here’s a twelfth fact: We’ll undoubtedly be back again with the next episode of mass shooting in America.


Weekend Reads

“You can put it on the record: I’m definitely not the best wire walker in the world. But as far as business goes? I’m up there with the best for sure.” Buzzfeed’s Steve Kandell on Nik Wallenda: The Wal-Mart Of High-Wire Walkers. (I think I’ll stick to social media for my acts of self-promotion.)

+ The New Yorker’s John Seabrook: “Among the stranger aspects of recent pop music history is how so many of the biggest hits of the past twenty years — by the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync, and Britney Spears to Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and the Weeknd — have been co-written by a forty-four-year-old Swede.” (In case you were looking for someone to blame.)

+ GQ’s Nathaniel Penn on the untold story of the Texas biker gang shoot-out. “Nothing I’d seen in the Marines had really prepared you for that.”

+ Vox: The nudists, doctors, and true believers who built vegetarianism.


Putin on the Blitz

As world leaders call on Russia to put a halt to its “first military foray outside of the former Soviet Union in more than three decades,” the Assad regime is urging Putin to commit ground troops to Syria.

+ David Ignatius: Russia and the “facts on the ground” in Syria.


Pope Culture

There wasn’t much controversy when the Pope was in America. But since he left, everyone is trying to get to the bottom of his meeting with Kim Davis. Let the debate begin.

+ Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that the Pope also held a private meeting with same-sex couple during his visit. One of the members of the couple also happens to be a friend of the Pope, his former student, and a current atheist: “Obviously he is the pastor of the church and he has to follow the church’s teachings. But as a human being he understands all kinds of situations, and he is open to all kinds of people, including those with different sexual characteristics.”


Clowning the Bubbles

“The soda industry is winning the policy battles over the future of its product. But the bigger picture is that soda companies are losing the war.” NYT Upshot’s Margot Sanger-Katz on the decline of big soda. (I stopped drinking soda, I almost never eat gluten, and I regularly force kale down my gullet. And for what it’s worth, I feel like crap.)


My Friend Alex

I’d like to take a brief detour to remember my friend Alex King. We worked on many projects together. You may not know him, but as WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg explains: “Code that Alex wrote still runs billions of times a day across millions of websites, and long after that code evolves or gets refactored the ideas and philosophy he embedded in WordPress will continue to be part of who we are … Every time you see the share icon on the web or in Android you should think of him.”

+ I’ve been thinking of Alex all the time these days. Here’s my own brief remembrance of Alex.


Bring the Family

Many of us have dragged our kids along for a “bring your kid to work” day. But it’s less common when you’re the president of a country. From the BBC: Why does Belarus President Lukashenko take son Kolya to work? (Once a semester I let my kids skip school so they can watch me drink coffee and type.)


The Mars Bar

Landing humans on Mars will be one of humankind’s most challenging acts. But as NatGeo’s Mark Strauss explains, it will be nothing compared to the challenge of getting them back. (The importance of which will be tied inexorably to who we decide to send.)


Bottom of the News

Aside from personal hygiene, what do prospective daters value most when perusing an online profile. Grammar. From WSJ: A “survey found 88% of women and 75% of men said they cared about grammar most, putting it ahead of a person’s confidence and teeth.” Proofreader, Proofreader, make me a match…

+ Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the Internet (and millions more shouldn’t be…)

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