Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023


Vienna Waits for You

Imagine a city where public housing is widely available to citizens from diverse economic backgrounds. We're talking about 80% of a city qualifying. Now imagine that once you qualify, you always qualify. No stigma. No massive rise in living expenses. No suffocating mortgage. In short, imagine Gemeindebauten, which is described as "social housing" but also roughly translates as the rent is not too damn high. Francesca Mari in the NYT Mag (Gift Article): Imagine a Renters' Utopia. It Might Look Like Vienna. "To American eyes, the whole Viennese setup can appear fancifully socialistic. But set that aside, and what's mind-boggling is how social housing gives the economic lives of Viennese an entirely different shape ... Imagine having to think about [your housing expenses] to the same degree that you think about your restaurant choices or streaming-service subscriptions. Imagine, too, where the rest of your income might go, if you spent much less of it on housing." As an American, I'd probably spend the extra money on a vacation home. (The song is already in your head, so here's Billy Joel's Vienna. Come to think of it, maybe I'd spend the savings on piano lessons...)


Screenage Wasteland

"Our children have become unknowing participants in a decades-long experiment." Vox: How far should the government go to control what your kids see online? "Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on May 23 that outlined social media's perceived risks and benefits to children, saying that 'we do not have enough evidence to conclude that [social media] is sufficiently safe for them.' Lawmakers, the advisory said, can mitigate possible harm with policies such as age minimums, increased data privacy for children, and age-appropriate health and safety standards for platforms to implement." I'm not sure government intrusion is the answer and I am sure that any such efforts would instantly devolve into culture war nonsense. But the notion that our kids spending their entire lives glued to their devices is harmless is patently (and parently) absurd, and I'm quite sure my kids would agree (although they haven't returned my texts about this).


Tiny Troubles

"Only a fraction of the plastic produced gets recycled: About 9 percent worldwide and about 5 to 6 percent in the United States." There's also a very big (and very small) problem when it comes to the plastic that does get recycled. "A recent peer-reviewed study that focused on a recycling facility in the United Kingdom suggests that anywhere between 6 to 13 percent of the plastic processed could end up being released into water or the air as microplastics — ubiquitous tiny particles smaller than five millimeters that have been found everywhere from Antarctic snow to inside human bodies." WaPo (Free Article): The little-known unintended consequence of recycling plastics.


To the Hoyts

"The father-and-son team began running races in 1977, competing in more than 1,000 marathons, duathlons and triathlons, according to the Team Hoyt website. In a custom racing chair, Rick -- who had cerebral palsy that left him a quadriplegic -- told his father that running in the race made him feel like his disability disappeared." Rick Hoyt, the man whose father pushed him in a wheelchair for 32 years in the Boston Marathon, has died at the age of 61.

+ The story of the Hoyt father and son duo is like no other, an no one told it better than Real Sports. Here's a segment well worth your time. Team Hoyt's Inspirational Story.


Extra, Extra

Hurt Grokker: "Even though pain is universal, there has not been a way to objectively measure its intensity." That could change. New research suggests chronic pain can be objectively measured using brain signals. (What, the smile-frown pain chart wasn't accurate enough for you?)

+ Financing on the Ceiling: "A judge in Boston has ordered a hearing next week on one of the key arguments that President Joe Biden has the legal authority to ignore the debt limit statute and continue to pay the federal government's bills." Court sets legal showdown on debt limit 14th Amendment argument. (The hearing isn't for another week, which is just about the time the debt ceiling must be raised. In the meantime, it's back to negotiating something that should never be negotiated with people who should never be negotiated with.)

+ False Starting: "A false report of an explosion at the Pentagon, accompanied by an apparently AI-generated image, spread on Twitter on Monday morning, sparking a brief dip in the stock market." (This is just a little warmup.)

+ The Recidivist: E. Jean Carroll won a $5 million sexual abuse and defamation award against former President Donald Trump. Trump then went on CNN and further defamed her. Now she's suing for an additional $10 million. Upon learning this, Trump defamed her again. (You've got to give him this: Trump has always been remarkably good at losing money.)

+ Ten Part Lesson Plan: WaPo: "Texas lawmakers are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to require that the Ten Commandments be posted in every classroom in the state, part of a newly energized national effort to insert religion into public life." (It's about religion, from the SCOTUS to the state house.)

+ State of Church: Here's the least surprising lede of the day/decade: "A multi-year investigation into child sex abuse by members of the Catholic clergy in Illinois found at least 1,997 children across the state were sexually abused." Wait, I thought it was the drag shows we had to watch out for?

+ Prom and Circumstance: "While politicians demonize trans children and their families, the organizers behind prom say that trans kids deserve a chance to just be kids—with all the rites of passage that come with growing up." Trans Kids Want to Go to Prom, So They Threw It for Themselves.

+ Revenge of the Herds: "A spate of encounters between orcas and boats off the Iberian coast has puzzled scientists and sailors recently, as seemingly coordinated ambushes by the killer whales led to the sinking of three vessels. The reason for the attacks, according to one scientist who has studied the phenomenon, may be revenge."


Bottom of the News

"In the U.S., housing inventory is low. In underdeveloped countries, it can be prohibitively expensive to build. In all cases, green and sustainable methods are useful. Which is why researchers in Japan have pursued a novel way of crafting a low-cost home: recycled diapers." (This gives new meaning to load bearing structures.)

+ "After announcing plans to use an AI chatbot at its drive-thrus, now Wendy's is piloting a robot-powered 'underground delivery system' for online order pickups."