Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
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In this Sunday's forthcoming New York Times Magazine—which has been magically sent backward in time, from the future, to the internet of today—I have a short piece on how dynamic, demand-based pricing is probably going to become a staple of supremely popular restaurants as logistics-driven startups, of a piece with Uber and Airbnb, begin looking to disrupt (lol) woefully inefficient restaurant seating systems. In summary: Hope you like eating out on Tuesdays at 9PM. Unless you are rich, then why are you worrying about this, or anything at all? It'll be just fine. You'll be just fine. Everything's fine.

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The Tall, Skinny, Shining Skyline That L.A. Deserves

For the last forty years, an odd rule from the Los Angeles Fire Department, known as Regulation 10, has required that every skyscraper in the city have a helipad for potential emergency rescues. This is why, architects argue, Los Angeles has a thoroughly medicore skyline. Here are a whole lot of them complaining to the New York Times about Regulation 10:

“The helipad regulation has hindered L.A. from having an iconic, memorable skyline in a city that desperately needs a stronger urban identity,” said Brigham Yen, a downtown realtor who writes a blog, DTLA Rising. “Downtown L.A. now has the opportunity to design visually stunning high-rises with spires that [...]

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Pity the Poor Bodega Cigarette Man

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 [...]

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6

Hotels Are People Too

It'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 [...]

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The Rats Among Us

On Tuesday, Dr. Lipkin and his colleagues published their initial results in the journal mBio. Although the scientists examined just 133 rats, they found plenty of pathogens. Some caused food-borne illnesses. Others, like Seoul hantavirus, had never before been found in New York. Others were altogether new to science…So far, they have identified 18 unknown species related to viruses already shown to cause diseases in humans. Two of the new species were similar to the virus that causes hepatitis C.

One scientist told the Times that the discovery of these brand new, never-before-seen viruses in New York City rats is not "a call to wage war on rats [...]

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Pathogen Privilege

Amanda Uhry, who runs a consultancy called Manhattan Private School Advisors, which, as its name suggests, helps parents through the private-school application process, said she recently turned down a half-dozen clients when she discovered that they were opposed to vaccination. For a long while she had never inquired about the issue, but a few years ago, a child she was working with missed his kindergarten interview because of whooping cough, which left her stunned. "I thought, Whooping cough? Who gets whooping cough anymore?" she said.

While the Times strains to paint the wealthy parents New York City as marginally more reasonable than the wealthy parents of Los Angeles [...]

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The Tortilla's Last Light

In May, in the course of conducting what could be the Awl's first annual Chipotle State of the Union survey, idk, Bobby Finger discovered that far more people ordered bowls than burritos, even though Chipotle is generally known as a burrito chain. Today, in a piece on the rise of grain bowls as a meal format—which strangely omits the Korean dish dolsot bibimbap, the ultimate bowl of grains and cool stuff—is official confirmation of the tortilla's fall from grace: "For evidence that the bowl has gone mainstream, look no further than Chipotle, whose burrito bowl is the biggest selling item on the menu."

Chipotle, America's favorite [...]

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The YA Books No Adult Should Read

A thing I compulsively do after I pick up my Kindle, but before I start actually reading anything, is browse through its bookstore. Even though I rarely buy books from Amazon in order to avoid contributing to the downfall of publishing as we know it or whatever, I have made at least a few random purchases, like Eric Schlosser's Chew on This, which, in the fog of early morning and the kind of gross, glowing wintergreen glaze atop the Kindle's black-and-white E-Ink pages, seemed like a sequel or an update to Fast Food Nation, which I had never read in its entirety. I was immediately struck not just by how [...]

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Ban Cars from Central Park

The mystery of the bear cub found dead on Monday in Central Park is one step closer to being solved: It was revealed on Tuesday that she died after being hit by a car.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation announced that the results of a necropsy showed that the cause of death was "blunt force injuries consistent with a motor vehicle collision."

I rest my case.

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The Rise of Fake Good Cocktails

New York City’s restaurants are in the midst of an epidemic of not-goodness. Sit down in any new dining room, and you are handed a cocktail list. Each drink on this document will have one ingredient you have heard of and seven that were apparently named after distant planets. Sometimes you may think you recognize a cocktail that you like (a good cocktail, in other words), but everything you like about it has been replaced by some other thing that you’re not sure about. “Hello there, that sounds like an old-fashioned!” you think. “But with burdock syrup instead of sugar, Croatian absinthe instead of bourbon, and hemlock bitters instead [...]

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Playing the 'Twin Peaks' Revival Odds

Normally, when one learns of the revival of a beloved intellectual property from prior decades, the only appropriate thing to feel in response is absolute dread. However, considering that the last half of the second season of Twin Peaks—except for the last episode—was a smoking wreck (and, according to most people, the movie was not much better!), the odds that the Showtime revival of Twin Peaks, coming in 2016, will degrade the series even further are only slightly higher than the odds that David Lynch and Mark Frost could in fact improve upon its standing. (Sylvester Stallone is a strange but true case study in this fact: His recent additions [...]

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Cool Words Properly Historicized

Even the seemingly up-to-the-minute “bae,” a word that means babe or baby and is so new that most of its written use is in personal communications, has a print trail back to the early 2000s, and is probably a descendant of the reduplicative nickname Bae Bae, a rendering of “baby,” which shows up in print in the 1990s. In some cases, bae is older than the people using it. (It also has its own spurious acronymic etymology, “before anyone else.”)

I am convinced that the favorite pastime of linguists, who are, by definition, Olds, is showing up to point out that they knew about words like "bae" before [...]

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'Luxury' Redefined

"What used to be a 650-square-foot studio can now be a very well-laid-out one-bedroom," he said. For new condominiums like 50 Clinton Street, a project on the Lower East Side where WD-50, the restaurant run by the chef Wylie Dufresne, now stands, he said, "I’m dubbing a new term, 'cool luxury,' where the building is super design-focused, but it doesn’t use the most high-end finishes or appliances.”

Real estate developers may be, outside of teens, our most precious source of new forms of language.

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Cover Stories

The other day, the New York Times observed that there has been "a shift in The New Yorker’s cover art toward the topical and provocative." One can see that change, literally, where, "at The New Yorker’s Midtown offices, a wall of covers arranged in chronological order shows a distinct change in tone," with a turning point being somewhere "around Sept. 11, 2001," when it ran a stark, all-black cover.

This is largely in tune with a shift in the tone of the magazine itself, which has grown only more responsive to current events in recent years (in contrast to its stance under every editor that preceded Tina Brown [...]

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Uber Optics

As communities are heading back to school, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate the educators who are also our Uber partner drivers. Whether it’s an afternoon shift or a summertime gig, partnering with Uber provides teachers with the flexibility and opportunity they need to continue creating a foundation of excellence for students across the country.

Every day teachers are asked to do more with less, constantly faced with new challenges and limited resources. Uber opens the door for more possibilities and delivers a meaningful impact to the communities we serve.

Teachers are among the most dedicated, passionate and hardworking professionals – a few of the qualities that [...]

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The Ads We Deserve

Facebook has made a great many terrible promises to a great many terrible people about all of the terrible ways that those terrible people—and Facebook!—can make a lot of money using the incredibly personal data extracted from users to sell them terrible products. Not all of those promises have panned out. But one can get an approximate sense of how genuinely anxious one should be, as a Facebook user, by how genuinely excited the terrible people become at the prospect of one of these promises. (It's a roughly inverse relationship: The more excited they are, the more unnerved one can choose to feel. It's like when somebody guffaws [...]

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The Rodent and the Mayor

Brian Morris, a spokesman for the zoo, said officials were in the process of revisiting animal protocols, and it was "more than likely" that new rules would keep mayors and groundhogs from coming into contact every February.

"It’ll protect our animals," he said, "and it’ll also protect whoever the mayor is."

Keeping large rodents out of the hands of towering New York City mayors will no doubt save their lives, given the recent events that led to the death of Charlotte, aka Chuck, the mystical groundhog—but what grave harm, exactly, must the mayor be shielded from? The conspiracy is real, folks.

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Middleman Removed

But consider the experience of Chris Dannen, a 29-year-old ­webtrepreneur who was served with an eviction notice after a year of hosting Airbnb guests in his Greenpoint apartment. When he dropped off his final rent check, he noticed the management company was converting it into a hotel: The "loft suite" apartments are currently listed on Airbnb for $199. Dannen was, and still is, a believer in Airbnb’s cause. "I’m of the millennial view that it’s a nice way to meet people and make friends." But he was disappointed in Airbnb’s reaction to his situation. "In retrospect, I would say, they knew this was going to happen to people, and they [...]

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Are You a Tech Company?

In 2014, there are but a few questions to ask yourself in order to determine if you are a technology company or "startup."

• Do you have a website which is primarily used to sell your product(s)?

• Do you sincerely believe that your company, which mostly aspires to sell a commodity product to middle-class and upper-middle-class consumers using mildly novel marketing techniques, is going to change the world?

• Has a mysterious man offered you tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars?

Well then! I have good news for you.

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The Real Estate Agent's Preferred Way of Thinking About Climate Change

“The answer is the Pacific Northwest, and probably especially west of the Cascades.”

“Actually, the strip of coastal land running from Canada down to the Bay Area is probably the best.”

“I predict we’re going to have millions of people moving to [the country’s midsection, like Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee and Detroit]."

“Alaska is going to be the next Florida by the end of the century.”

The grim parlor game that we're playing here is "Where will people move when the now-inevitable environmental apocalypse that the human race could've averted but loved its SUVs and one-dollar hamburgers and air conditioning a little too much [...]

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