Monday, October 20th, 2014
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The New York City Tourism Association Thanks You for Visiting the Apple Store

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, Slate Assistant Editor Miriam Krule tells us more about intergenerational information transfer at the Apple store in Grand Central Terminal.

Miriam! So what happened here?

I was heading to Connecticut to celebrate the festival of huts out in the wilderness. My ride had fallen through, so I was taking the train, but the only one that worked for various boring logistical reasons was essentially midday. My parents live in New Jersey, so even though I grew up in New York, I’ve spent very little time in Grand Central Station and didn’t exactly think things through, figuring I could work from there in the morning. I found a nice quiet corner, only to realize that there’s no magical train station Wi-Fi (coincidentally this was as news of “Wi-Fi is a human right” was blowing up). Just as I was about to cave and pay for it (aka, look for a Starbucks), I saw an Apple Wi-Fi option and basically searched for a strong connection and ended up in the Apple Store, which I had no idea existed. (For future reference, it’s on this majestic balcony overlooking the main floor. Also, it’s impossible to miss.)

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"A pregnant unwed mother can’t use Facebook alone to notify the father about the baby before putting the child up for adoption, Oklahoma’s highest civil court has ruled."

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Counselor, World Traveler, Wrangler of Young Jews: A Hiring History

On the last day of Camp FirewoodCamp counselor: In the days of yore, when I was eighteen, I chased 6 and 7 year old children around five days week for eight weeks for one thousand dollars. At the end of everyday they got in the cars of their grownups and drove away and I listened to Dar Williams over and over (ON CASSETTE TAPE). I discovered her after our camp music director played “The Babysitter’s Here” on her guitar. I also made out with another counselor a lot, and then drove at high speeds from their house at five in the morning so I could be at work the next day. As you do.

Wrangler of Young Jews

Job A: I moved to the Midwest for four years to try and convince students at a small liberal arts college, infamous for performance art and communal kitchens and organ playing, that being Jewish was important. It was a fractious community, full of bright, rare, thoughtful humans who came to encompass my entire existence. In the best moments, we read the racy passages in romance novels aloud to one another in the dining hall, watched TV together in the dorm lounges, and crammed into my tiny, beloved apartment to eat snacks and laugh. In the worst, I felt isolated and more than a little crazy. READ MORE

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Your Ebola Halloween Costume: A User's Guide

So you're doing "Ebola" for your halloween costume this year. You've found a topical novelty outfit online, or maybe you've just purchased some cheap and readily available medical clothing, knowing that your peers will have no problem guessing what it's supposed to represent.

But "Ebola" is going to be a very popular costume this year. You're not the only person who heard about this epidemic on the news! If you want to stand out—if you want to be the star of the party, by evoking Ebola hemorrhagic fever—you need to study up. Here are some helpful facts that you can recite to your friends in order to give your Ebola costume that extra dimension of authenticity.

• Ebola kills quickly and painfully. There is no known cure, or vaccine, and the best available treatment in most cases, according to the CDC, is "providing intravenous fluids (IV) and balancing electrolytes (body salts)."

• Ebola is characterized, early on, by fever, weakness, headache and diarrhea. This is followed by hemorrhaging and near-total loss of responsiveness.

• Direct contact with infected patients is the primary mode of transmission for Ebola. Therefore, this disease is most dangerous to the people who choose to provide treatment to the afflicted. Many, many medical professionals have died trying to give care and slow the spread of this terrifying disease.

• Ebola has spread most profoundly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, where a paucity of medical and emergency infrastructure has allowed the disease to spiral out of control. (Don't worry: These places are all at least 4,000 miles away from the nearest American Halloween parties.) Facilities that do exist have been largely overwhelmed, creating hellish scenes of suffering.

• Many of the people fighting this disease do not have access to the equipment and clothing required to protected themselves, such as the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that you will be wearing to a sports bar or fraternity party on October 31st. (Careful: The CDC says that proper PPE "significantly reduces the body’s normal way of getting rid of heat by sweating," increasing the risk of dehydration and heat-related illnesses.)

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Upon closer inspection of the shelves, he noticed that the rear wall stopped short, a couple of inches from the other side, suggesting a gap in between. He peered lower. There was a pinpoint hole in the rear wall. Below it, a toothpick lay on the shelf. Deputy Davis, 43, stuck the toothpick in the hole.

The toothpick pressed a hidden button that released a large magnet that kept a secret compartment locked. Deputy Davis lifted the front of the row of shelves like you would the trunk of a small car, and inside were rows and rows, all different brands, of contraband. Not narcotics or pills, but unopened packs of cigarettes, perfectly legal in the state in which they were bought, but not here. Hence the secret compartment.

You might be wondering: How much are cigarettes from state to state, such that bodegas—forty-eight percent of those inspected by police—stock illegal cigarettes as a matter of course?

What a marvelous excuse to highlight the Awl's annual state-by-state cigarette price index. As the Awl's summer intern discovered a couple months ago, Virginia, where most of the contraband cigarettes seem to come from, sits squarely in the nexus of close and cheap, at $5.25 a pack, making it tied with Missouri for the cheapest cigarettes in the nation.

Light one up for poor Ahmed.

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New York City, October 16, 2014

weather review sky 101614★★★ A soaking rain, lingering from overnight, went off and on before shutting fully off at midday. From the west, the sky began to go blue. The once-fetid air had cooled. The clouds kept dissolving till there was blue shining in the puddles. The sidewalk tables went into service for lunch. Finally the clouds were nothing but gorgeous piles of light and shadow, pure harmless scenery.

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Spell Book of Beauty

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I’ve talked about makeup as magic before—it bleeds through my work. Sometimes I take the message literally and make beauty a ritual to do in the dark. And you know, it’s always worked, even if not entirely in the ways you would expect it to. Here are a few of my favorite spells.

For Recovery & Purification
I do this in the dark times where I relapse into “It was my fault” territory, when I am preoccupied with what I could haves and should haves and what my demons are doing now. Take some clove and burn it in a stone bowl, put it on the ground and start walking in triangle around it. Point, point, point. Walk. I do this until my mind is clear, until things get smaller and quieter. You have to unfocus, dear one. Point, walk. Point, walk. Point, walk. Continue until calm, and the clove is halfway gone. Mix a drop of rosemary oil, myrrh, sandalwood and camelia into a base of your choice, olive oil works fine. Cleanse your face in a circular motion with lukewarm water, then in circular points with your oil, then downwards and out. For as long as necessary. Breathe in the following exercises while reciting the following words internally as affirmation and spellwork: It was not my fault. I am here, now. That’s all, just those words. You can think something else, if you need to. But observe how kind you can be to yourself, all alone. Your skin feels a bit warmer now, you know? Fuller, and quieter. Get familiar with your skin, the contours and bumps it might hold. Press the points of your bones and recognize how strong they are, to keep up all this turmoil. How strong. Hands pink with kindness flowing out through your palms. Keep going. Keep going. You’re fine. You have so much time. Stop when the clove burns out.

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This Week in Lines: Some Things in Life Are Kinda Free

IMG_01171:34 PM Wednesday, October 15th — Free donuts for the Dough opening
Location: 14 West 19th Street
Length: A hundred and ninety-two people with inner Homer Simpsons
Weather: 77 and partly cloudy
Crowd: Local office-workers, for whom a free donut is probably the highlight of their week
Mood: Excited enough to make me question whether or not these people need anymore sugar in their systems
Wait time: Fifty minutes
Lingering question: How long can one function at work after consuming a Dulce de Leche donut? READ MORE

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The Need to Make Believe

The last thing I made was my bed. Soon I will make some toast, and later today I will make plans for this weekend. We all make things, abstract and actual, every day. Some people just make do and others make deals, but we all make believe. That capacity for fiction serves us well, though sometimes too well.

One of my favorite songs from the fifties is about that beautiful but beguiling ability to pretend things are other than the way they are. Why accept the end of a relationship when you can pretend it never happened? I've listened to many covers of "Making Believe," one of those songs that artists just can't stop covering, but it's the shaky sincerity in Kitty Wells's voice that makes me love her version most. Her sadness is so, so sweet that it's never enough to listen once; you want to hear the song over and over again, even though you know every time that it's sad to make believe for so long—tragic to refuse to accept that someone has stopped loving you.

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Do Not Roast the Squash

squaaaash

Trends and memes may be on the side of fall and winter squash—I dare you to find a single vendor without some variety of pumpkin foodstuff between September and December—but I rue the transition from light, delicate, and fresh summer squash, like zucchini, to heavy, sugary, and starchy winter squash, like acorn, pumpkin, delicata, butternut, and, of course, pumpkin. The most common way to eat winter squash, the one I see at potlucks and on restaurant menus alike, is actually the worst: a simple PC&R (peel, cube, and roast).

This is a very good way to cook almost any vegetable, but a bad way to cook winter squash. Summer squashes are typically eaten young, while the seeds and skins are still soft and edible—even raw—while winter squashes have been allowed to grow to a mature stage, so they are hardier; their flesh is dense and sweet and their skin tough and sometimes warty. This makes them very resistant to winter temperatures, but their texture makes people think they can be treated like potatoes or sweet potatoes, with a PC&R. Nope.

I have tried every possible way to PC&R winter squash: I have par-boiled; I have sous-vided; I have covered in aluminum foil; I have experimented with every possible temperature and timing and size and shape and amount of oil. My final conclusion is that there is no good way to PC&R a butternut squash or pumpkin. The pleasure of a roasted starchy vegetable is in the crispy exterior and pillowy interior, but this does not happen to winter squash—the only thing it does well in the oven is turn to mush.

This is all not to say that there are no good ways to eat winter squashes. That very tendency to turn to mush can be embraced. The squash is mush. Let it be mush. This means transforming it into soups, sauces, and purees, where the winter squash’s mushiness and heaviness become creaminess and richness. Here’s how to cook them properly.

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The Uncanny Language of Medical Instagram

A few months ago a friend showed me a story about an app called Figure 1. It was billed as "Medicine’s Answer to Instagram," and had apparently just raised a couple million dollars. I downloaded it. I am not a doctor, nor did I claim to be one when I signed up. I checked "Journalist" from the "Non-Healthcare Professional" menu. This got me in on a sort of limited basis (selecting "Other" would have worked too). I couldn't post—that's for pros—but I could see everything.

To a "Non-Healthcare Professional" the main Figure 1 feed is shocking. It's an infinite scroll of graphic medical photos—growths, infections, fractures, rashes, traumatic injuries, birth defects. I've had the app for a few months but I can rarely bring myself to open it. This is stuff that doctors either want to show their colleagues or need help with, so it's full of superlatives and oddities. Anyone know what this is? Seen this before? Got a diagnosis? Nope! Sure don't. But I'm here, somehow, in the room with you.

The question of consent is immediate. Nothing, affliction-wise, is off limits—it's all there, and the question of how it got there is unavoidable. (The app hosts over a million new pictures a day.) The matter of consent is deeply designed into the app and its terms of service. The company's recommendations are clear. "Before sharing online," the company says, "protect your patients’ privacy by removing their identifying information. On Figure 1, we ask you to remove 18 identifiers (which have been drawn from HIPAA) and provide you with the tools to do so. Use these tools to keep your patients’ identities safe." There are paid moderators who monitor these things.

The company is also clear about what the app is for—education, sharing with other doctors—and matters of consent:

Above all else, you should always apply the same ethical principles you use in your practice to what you post online. Avoid saying anything about a patient online that you would not say in front of them.

If you are posting an image to Figure 1, you may need written consent from the patient (depending on your jurisdiction and workplace). Figure 1 provides a country-specific consent form right in the app. Alternately, there are written consent forms available at most institutions. Know the consent rules that apply to you and follow them with respect toward your patients.

The app itself presents doctors with a default touchscreen consent form, which they in turn present to their patients. It looks something like this: Screenshot from iMedicalApps.

The language here is exact. It's short enough for a patient to read and can be represented fairly in a short bedside conversation that might go something like this: "Would it be OK with you if I shared photos of your condition with my colleagues? We use an app—it's like Instagram for doctors—where we share interesting information and ask for additional opinions." I could imagine saying yes to that, as, say, my index finger dangled from my hand by a thin strip of skin. I would also understand, intuitively, that having a sorted, up-to-date feed of recent field-specific photos, with conversations and context attached, could be useful to my doctor and others. Or to students.

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Selling Sexless Sex at Abercombie

A+FOne day in college, on what would have otherwise been a forgettable afternoon, two attractive people approached me outside of my department. The man, with his bionic back, parabolic pectorals and arms fixed at right angles, cut an intimidatingly precise figure. The woman was an implausible series of distends, curves and stares—all unnervingly suggestive. There were no introductions or pleasantries; instead, they presented me with a pristine white card. Looking down at it in hope of an explanation, I read, "Abercrombie and Fitch recruitment." They stood back proudly and expectantly, letting what I suppose they thought was an honor sink-in. When I showed no response, they resorted to their pitch. They told me that they needed someone like me and that I would really enjoy working at the company. Everyone was exceedingly "cool" and, in fact, it "wouldn’t even seem like a job."

Their company-supplied rhetoric was far from compelling, and had I received this pitch alone, such an afternoon would have inevitably meandered into the anonymity it had once been headed for. However, I slid too easily into the Hollywood high school cliché where the popular, beautiful kids invite an unsuspecting and shy outcast to sit with them at their lunch table. This was in London, and Abercrombie was still relatively new in Europe and carried little of the baggage of its domestic travails; it wasn’t cool, but it was still attractive.

I joined, out of a pitiful vanity and because I thought I would get laid. READ MORE

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A Poem by Madhur Anand

Two-two Weeks

Nights lit up with a timer. Our programmable nests
evolving new synonyms. Spring is a thermostat,

a due date, a flutter. Some products are just simple
sums, but there is a harder green: multiplication

that fails to ripen. For now, well-bound prospectus, glow
on a branch. I read aloud and current children cheer.

"Oh, wie schön ist Panama!" A bear and a tiger
setting sail in a crate with the scent of bananas.

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In 2014, not a single artist’s album has gone platinum. Not one has managed to cross that million sales mark.

One album has managed to sell over a million copies so far this year, but it’s a soundtrack. The ever-popular Frozen soundtrack may slowly be working its way down the charts, but it is by far the best selling collection this year. Though it doesn’t have any marquee names on it—those that are usually expected to sell the best—the soundtrack has managed to move 3.2 million copies so far, and with winter coming, that number is sure to rise.

The most popular album of 2014 that was actually released in 2014 is Eric Church's Outsiders; its highest-charting single is the song embedded above, "Give Me Back My Hometown." It did not reach number one overall. Have you heard it? Me neither—not that many people have, in absolute terms. It's gotten lots of radio play, and its YouTube video has nearly ten million views. In contrast, the music video for MAGIC!'s "Rude" currently has 180,359,175 views on Vevo, and Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" has 254,265,074. Just look at this whole page, full of obvious superstars who are sort of floating in a inter-industry void, lifted by enormous raw numbers but not at all fixed in space or time, at least officially. The music industry as it has been conceptualized for half a century does not exist.

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New York City, October 15, 2014

weather review sky 101514[No stars] Reeking and full of incoherent menace, like a surly drunk squinting for an excuse to take a swing at someone. The humidity was suffocating. Clouds speeding under higher clouds opened moving blue spaces intermittently. Some of the spaces were large enough to let sun through for a while, creating a brief, gruesome caricature of summer. The wind came up and blew away the bright interlude. The light turned greenish and the sky slopped out enough rain to dampen the pavement. After a while it rained again, and again, splatting on the windows in the dark.

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Forgotten Monsters

garfeld
Garfel: Over the years, Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid was radically changed from her original form. The sad, painful dancer who turns into depressed seafoam after her one true love weds another became Ariel, a sexy, wide-eyed redhead, who successfully wins her man without even a small jig. In this same manner, Garfel, an ancient Norse demon who kept little Vikings awake for centuries, has been softened for weak modern children. Once known as a mostly-dormant feline beast whose ravenous appetite and formidable rage exploded only at the beginning of each week, today he is a cat who is funnier when he is not even around. His nemesis, Odin, was slightly changed for the modern version as well.

sharkmaid
Sharkmaid: The sharkmaid is lady on top, sushi on bottom, just like her fishier sister. Still, despite her humanoid torso, she retains many fearsome shark qualities. The Sharkmaid never sleeps or stops moving, lending her a grumpy, frazzled appearance and a short attention span. Her teeth may not be as flesh ripping as her boy Jaws, but her wit is just as biting. Sharkmaid is the not entirely unlike the sharp-tongued, overworked DMV clerk of your nautical nightmares. You better hope you filled that boating license out correctly the first time. READ MORE

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Attention Artists, Designers and Creators

It's tough out there for working artists today. Finding the funding, resources and mentorship to realize your passion projects can feel overwhelming. Well, here's your opportunity. THE SPACE is a non-profit organization that provides artists with substantial funding, allowing them to bring their digital art ideas to fruition. They're looking for talented artists from all disciplines to submit proposals for their dream projects.

SCREEN-YOU-WANT-TO-BE-RECOGNIZED

THE SPACE provides the opportunity for you to get genuine funding for that one crazy project you could never quite fit in your schedule. Like when John Cale of The Velvet Underground got funding to create an orchestra of flying drones. Or when musical pioneer John Peel got the time to create a virtually accessible archive of his massive record collection. Nothing’s off limits, this is about pushing the limit. The best part? You retain all rights to your project.

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It's easy. Simply submit a short description of your idea through THE SPACE Open Call, which runs from October 10th to November 14th 2014.

We only ask, that the project can live on the internet and be accessed on mobile and tablet devices. The art projects can take their point of departure in any artistic discipline, from music and film to visual arts and gaming.

The best projects will be shortlisted and the winners will be announced February 2015. So what are you waiting for? Submit your proposal today. and join the conversation at on twitter using the #TheSpaceOC hashtag.

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Hotels Are People Too

airbnblahIt's increasingly hard to escape the sensation that the primary proprietors of the so-called sharing economy don't so much share as take—from their users, from their contracted workers, from the localities in which they operate, by utilizing infrastructure that they do not contribute toward. It's everybody else who shares.

The New York State Attorney General's initial report on Airbnb in New York City, which analyzed full-apartment bookings (crucially, not room shares) with the service from 2010 until this past June, feels fairly conclusive in this regard. Even if you absolutely do not care at all that, according to the attorney general, seventy-two percent of the private bookings on Airbnb are technically illegal, or that real hotel operators are losing out hundreds of millions of dollars in bookings, or even maybe that the city has lost tens of millions of dollars in taxes the city has lost to Airbnb and its hosts, it's frankly easy, as a renter in New York City (I mean, Jesus) to feel supremely agitated that last year, more than four-and-a-half thousand apartments listed on Airbnb were booked for short-term rentals for three months of the year or more, and of those, nearly half were booked by half the year or more—meaning apartments that could and should have been on the market were being largely used as hotels. (These apartments accounted for thirty-eight percent of the revenue to Airbnb and its hosts from units booked as private short-term rentals, according to the attorney general.) READ MORE

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The Sad Parents of #Gamergate

All around the country, parents are sitting down to have the talk with their children. Not about sex or mortality or college. They're having the talk about Gamergate. From our own comments:

I have a 17 year old son and trying to point out the actual facts in this story is like trying to convince a rabid 70 year old FOX viewer that Obama is not a terrorist, born on Mars, here to take your guns.
"It's about ethics, mom. Don't you care about ETHICS?"

He's not down with the death threats though, so I guess Yay?

Imagine! You hear your child talking animatedly about something. He steps closer and you hear him say "bias" and "Sarkeesian." The words drip with spite. Later, you hear him through the bedroom door, talking to his webcam: "No, it's about corruption in games journalism!" What do you do?

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I Bought Some Jeans on Sale at The Gap And Now I'm a Person Again

Adco2-popupI was the only person in Gap at 9:30 in the morning on a Saturday, which I would recommend for anyone who has tried to avoid thinking about their body for a very long time and is ready to face the music in the most boring way possible and at a 40% discount. READ MORE

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