Friday, June 30th, 2017


Just Do It

Question: What should you do if you want to spend your Fourth of July weekend in the most patriotic way? Answer: Get it on. It turns out America's got a problem. We don't have enough babies (the newborn kind, we've got plenty of the Twitter-rant kind). And, as we've seen in other countries, that could lead to trouble. A country's birthrate has to be just right. "If too low, there's a danger that we wouldn't be able to replace the aging workforce and have enough tax revenue to keep the economy stable ... Birthrates that are too high can strain resources such as clean water, food, shelter and social services." You're already going to be oohing and aahing at the fireworks, so why not take it to the next level? Uncle Sam needs you! From WaPo: The U.S. fertility rate just hit a historic low. Here's why some demographers are freaking out.



An all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan coming to America to participate in a global robotics competition put on by FIRST. That has a nice ring to it. It's the ideal outcome of what folks like FIRST founder Dean Kamen had in mind when they took the excellent organization global. Sadly, the members of the Afghan team were denied the US visas required to attend the competition. "To interview for their visas, the girls risked a 500 mile trek cross-country to the American embassy in Kabul – the site of several recent suicide attacks and one deadly truck bomb in early June that killed at least 90 people. Despite the recent violence, the teenagers braved the trip to the country's capital not once, but twice." Someone has to fix this.


Weekend Whats

What to Hear:: ESPN's 30for30 documentaries make up one of the best series out there. And now the producers have launched 30for30 podcasts. The first one is up. Check it out and subscribe to the series.

+ What to Read: Looking for some summer reads? TED has put together a list of 101 books to dive into, as recommended by their speakers. Looking for a shorter list? My wife reads a book every couple days (seriously), and her pick of the year so far is The Wanderers by Meg Howrey.

+ What to Stock: My way of dealing with pre-travel anticipatory anxiety is to lock in on one product I feel I need to get my hands on before departure. Last week, that product was Apple AirPods. Sadly, there's a long wait to buy them online. So I used a site called Is In Stock to notify me when the AirPods were available in my local store. And after about a day or so, boom. (My anxiety level remained about the same, but the AirPods are good.)


Germans Shepherd in New Era

"The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, voted against the move, despite having paved the way for the law's passage by inviting MPs to vote according to their conscience." After a long wait followed by a swift vote, the German parliament legalized same-sex marriage.

+ "Only this week did she announce she had changed her mind, reportedly after having dinner with a lesbian couple who had fostered eight children." The Economist charts the change in Germany and the status of gay marriage across the world.

+ Buzzfeed: A look back at three decades of struggle for German marriage equality.


Morning (Joe) in America

Luckily that whole tweet spat launched by the American president against MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough has totally blown over. OK, not really. But I'm closing my eyes, plugging my ears, and humming as I type this, and I invite you to do the same. Brzezinski and Scarborough responded to the tweets on TV and with a WaPo editorial. "America's leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president. We have our doubts, but we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show, Morning Joe." (Full disclosure: I'm not sure anyone is mentally equipped to cope with cable news and Twitter at the same time.)

+ And it gets weirder: Gabe Sherman on what really happened between Donald Trump, the hosts of Morning Joe, and the National Enquirer. Jeffrey Toobin just wrote about the oddly tight connection between The National Enquirer and Trump for The New Yorker. "The tabloid is defined by its predatory spirit. Why has it embraced the President with such sycophantic zeal?"

+ Is Scarborough right when he suggests that allies are losing faith in America's leadership? Pew checked the numbers. And they're not pretty. (One might even say they're bleeding badly...)


iPhone Therefore I Am

It's rare that a product lives up to the hype. The iPhone surpassed it. As the device celebrates its tenth birthday, there's no denying that it has changed everything. In fact, the iPhone and its offspring are probably the most impactful products of our lifetimes (especially if you include the NextDraft app). The iPhone is ten. My son is eleven. That means he's basically never had my full attention. Here's John Gruber on the launch of three devices in one, that changed everything: "The iPhone was the product Apple had been founded to create — the epitome of everything both of Apple's founding Steves stood for and obsessed about. The home run of all home runs." Perfect Ten.

+ "Only four people outside of Apple already had iPhones. They were the four tech writers Apple had chosen to review the phone: Steven Levy, then of Newsweek; Ed Baig, of USA Today; Walt Mossberg, then of The Wall Street Journal; and me, then of The New York Times." David Pogue and three writers look back at their experience with the first pre-release iPhone.

+ "For 14 years the tech giant reigned as the world's biggest handset maker and, while it was at it, a primary engine of Finland's economy." Businessweek: They Built the First Phone You Loved. Where in the World Is Nokia Now?

+ The phones are everywhere. The cell signal isn't. From my very smart friend Matt Dunne in Wired: Rural America's Future Is Riding On A Cell Signal.


Trigger Warning

"We would watch a terrorist go into the bookstore that he minded, and that he used to conduct terrorist meetings. We saw him get ice cream cones with his friends at their favorite frozen yogurt store. We learned how they thought, what they ate, and who they hung out with. And then we decided what to do next." GQ in conversation with Army veteran and author Brett Velicovich: What Drone Warfare Does to a Soldier's Brain.


Southern Discomfort

"We are really sure the South is going to get hammered. The South is really, really negatively affected by climate change, much more so than the North. That wasn't something we were expecting going in." We've already got plenty of regional inequality in the US. And climate change is going to make matters much worse. (Of course, this will be an even bigger deal internationally.) From The Atlantic: The American South Will Bear the Worst of Climate Change's Costs.

+ Speaking of weather, yesterday it was 129 degrees in the Iranian city of Ahvaz. (Don't worry, it's a dry heat...)



"Do you have impacted wisdom teeth? Are your lower front teeth crooked or out of line? Do your uppers jut out over your lowers? Nearly all of us have to say ‘yes' to at least one of these questions, unless we've had dental work. It's as if our teeth are too big to fit properly in our jaws, and there isn't enough room in the back or front for them all. It just doesn't make sense that such an otherwise well-designed system would be so ill-fitting." But don't blame your teeth for being too big. The problem is that your jaw is too small.


Bottom of the News

"Within this heated context, Minions serve as clumsy cultural mediators, unearthing differences and similarities from a playful standpoint. Their inscrutability makes Minions the ideal globalist product -- they manage to be likable, relevant, and most importantly, enigmatic wherever they go." Buzzfeed's Daniel Spielberger explains why the Minions are so popular. (Simple. Girth matters.)

+ What really swayed the election? Windows users.

+ Boston Globe: When did summer camp offerings start sounding like brochures for Canyon Ranch?