Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
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How to Count to Infinity

As a child, one might have imagined counting to ten billion in the course of reckoning with the seeming infinitude of enormous numbers. This is actually impossible to do in a human life time, since it would take over three hundred years. But, as an adult, one might discover that he can simply will himself from zero to that number, or even more—at least as long as he is counting in dollars, as the founders of Snapchat and Uber have discovered, whose companies are now valued at more than ten billion dollars. A lingering question: now that the ten-billion-dollar frat has become a little less exclusive, who will be [...]

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Neighborhood Demographics Shifting

"But walking around the East Village, I just want to cry at the state of it. There are so many fuckin’ jocks everywhere! It’s like a frat house everywhere. There are all those terrible bars like The 13th Step, and it’s just spreading over to A and B. And now, in Williamsburg, you have all these frat guys dressed as alternatives. I don’t know if it’s a sign of the times, but where are the real weirdos?" They have apparently moved to Park Slope.

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The Waning of the Hobo

"There are currently nine major North American freight railroads. Operators point out that hopping freight is illegal and extremely dangerous and hope that the slide in hobo numbers in recent decades will continue."

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A Study in Contrasts

As hundreds line up for Michael Brown's funeral, the New York Times is running twinned profiles of twenty-eight-year-old Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and the unarmed eighteen-year-old he shot to death. This is how Wilson's begins: On the early afternoon of Feb. 28, 2013, Officer Darren Wilson answered a police call of a suspicious vehicle where, the police said, the occupants might have been making a drug transaction. After a struggle, Officer Wilson subdued the suspect and grabbed his car keys before help arrived, the police said.

A large amount of marijuana was found in the car, the police said, and the 28-year-old suspect now faces [...]

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Journalism Funded

The Huffington Post asks: What happens in Ferguson and the St. Louis metro area the day after everybody leaves?

I'm not sure.

We plan to be there as it all unfolds.

Great. I feel better knowing that AOL, a large, profitable media company, supports the Huffington Post's real, on-the-ground reporting.

For The Huffington Post, this'll involve a first-of-its-kind collaboration with readers, the local community and the Beacon Reader to create what we're calling the Ferguson Fellowship.

Oh wow, I love it when the community gets involved.

Local resident Mariah Stewart has been covering the Ferguson protests as a citizen journalist with the support of readers through Beacon's platform. [...]

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The Lost Section

Here is a weird thing about the technology section of the most important newspaper in America: A number of its biggest stars have left in recent months. While reporters at large papers frequently move around and often change beats—especially at the Times—all of these reporters continue to cover technology, just not from the tech desk. Nick Bilton, its most famous writer, who lives in the future and watched Twitter get hatched, now runs his "Disruptions" column in the Styles section; Claire Cain Miller now covers "tech + gender/work/family" at the Times' explainer site, the Upshot; Jenna Wortham, its brightest star, recently decamped for Sunday Business, where she continues [...]

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"It’s Uber, but for Golden Parachutes"

The two-way path between government, politics, and private industry, densely shaded by lush money trees, is so well-worn it seems to have been carved by the finger of God, a well-known capitalist, long ago. And yet, fresh trade routes establish themselves all the time. David Plouffe, the man who successfully convinced a majority of the United States in 2008 that Barack Obama would change the country for the better, is now going to make the same argument for Uber, a service that seeks to deeply weave itself into the infrastructure of cities in order to make as much money as possible. Meanwhile, Kara Swisher notes, former Obama press [...]

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Economy Shared

The Times has published its third or so major piece on the part-time and gig economy in nearly as many weeks—this one focussed on those employed by apps, commonly known as members of the "sharing economy." Predictably, the founder of a car-sharing marketplace that will be crushed by Uber, called RelayRides, describes it as "transformational.” And yet:

“On average, you’re going to make $7 per favor,” [Kelsey Cruse] Cruse explained, using the company’s euphemism for a delivery. “If you are running two favors in an hour, that’s $14 an hour. It’s pretty awesome.” She hadn’t yet racked up enough “favors” to earn that much consistently. So far [...]

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Website Editor Named

Please join us in saying hello and welcome to the new editor of The Hairpin, Haley Mlotek, who you may remember around these parts for advocating for Showgirls, the end of Vogue, and manifestos that demand the death of all men. Even though she is Canadian. Hi Haley!

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Software Efficient

The consequences of human workers becoming just another piece in the long chain of an algorithm optimized for efficiency above all else In Brooklyn, Sandianna Irvine often works “on call” hours at Ashley Stewart, a plus-size clothing store, rushing to make arrangements for her 5-year-old daughter if the store needs her. Before Martha Cadenas was promoted to manager at a Walmart in Apple Valley, Minn., she had to work any time the store needed; her mother “ended up having to move in with me,” she said, because of the unpredictable hours. Maria Trisler is often dismissed early from her shifts at a McDonald’s in Peoria, Ill., when the computers [...]

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The American Battlefield

There are many pieces about the murder of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. This one, by Greg Howard at Deadspin, is one of the most wrenching: Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he'll reasonably think that his job isn't simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.

If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they're working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the [...]

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Router Bricked

A tiny revelation from James Bamford's compelling new profile of Edward Snowden in Wired: One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn't know [...]

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Incredible Public Spectacle Not Any Kind of Ad for Any Brand At All

"There is no why."

Photo by micantgoz

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Content Distributed

Near the end of Mike Isaac's boldly headlined piece on the fifty million dollars that BuzzFeed has raised from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and what it plans to do with it, he notes:

And the future of BuzzFeed may not even be on BuzzFeed.com. One of the company’s nascent ideas, BuzzFeed Distributed, will be a team of 20 people producing content that lives entirely on other popular platforms, like Tumblr, Instagram or Snapchat.

Right now, "75 percent of BuzzFeed's traffic comes from referrals from social sites." From a publisher's perspective, this is the ideal relationship between it and a "social site": It plants a stick of [...]

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Transit Problem Disruptable

In light of the discovery of more bedbugs, on another N train—leading to calls to fumigate the entire line—one wonders how long it will be before Uber, savior of the public from our degraded, inefficient and apparently infested transit system, offers a bed bug special.

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America's Deeply Incorrect New Nut Ranking

"In 2012 Americans ate more almonds per capita than shelled and unshelled snack peanuts combined (not including peanut butter)." Almonds are great—especially in milk form—but what the fuck is wrong with you America?

Nuts, properly ranked (updated for 2014):

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A Reminder That Google Precog Is Only in Effect for Certain Crimes

A reminder from Google after its automatic scanning of all email moving in and out of Gmail recently identified a man using the service to send pictures of child pornography: It is important to remember that we only use this technology to identify child sexual abuse imagery, not other email content that could be associated with criminal activity (for example using email to plot a burglary).

Gmail: a secure choice for plotting assassinations and most other crimes since 2004.

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The End Arrives in a Paper Cup

The newest project from The Mast Brothers—giant-bearded gingers who arrived on the shores of Williamsburg in exquisitely crafted aprons and denim shirts to make conscientiously sourced and highly articulate hand-crafted bean-to-bar chocolate after leaving behind soulless corporate lives—is called The Chocolate House, and it combines all of that painful earnestness with the trappings of a Fancy Coffee Shop, like cold brew and pourover chocolate. Pay heed, children. This may be one of the signs of The Brooklyn Apocalypse, come to pass. (via Eater)

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The Big Blue Bottle Machine

There are at least two things to say with regards to Alexis Madrigal's long ode to the processes that have produced both coffee's shiniest monolith, Blue Bottle, and its newish adorable milk cartons filled with coffee, chicory, milk and sugar.

While it's only a tiny moment in the piece, Madrigal hits on precisely what has propelled Blue Bottle beyond its specialty coffee peers in the public imagination (and investors' hearts):

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The Subway Train I Would Not Ride

If I had to choose one subway train to not ride, I’d not ride the 2 train. After researching more than twenty subway lines and testing six measures of performance, the Straphangers Campaign found that that the 2 was the one train that its panel could agree on was the worst. It's not perfectly awful—although it scored below average on "regularity of service," "delays caused by mechanical breakdowns," and "seat availability during rush hour." It fortunately tied for best in the system on subway car announcements. However, it is pretty bad, and of all the trains, it is the one that I would not ride.

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