Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
2

"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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3

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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0

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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1

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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0

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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1

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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4

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

"There is no why."

Photo by micantgoz

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5

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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0

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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4

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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1

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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1

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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0

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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4

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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3

Moon Stupidly Shaped

Rather than do literally anything else, scientists have spent forty-five years trying to decipher the true shape of the fucking moon, which is apparently "like a lemon with an equatorial bulge," according to the author of the absolutely pointless study. The Times writes: Efforts to pinpoint the moon’s exact shape have long been stymied by the presence of large craters on its surface that formed after the crust solidified. There have also been inconsistencies between its measurements and what we know about its past.

For example, the moon barely spins, yet it appears to have the sort of equatorial bulge caused by rotation. And why would a [...]

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7

Moral Calculus Elucidated

Amazon, apparently no longer all that comfortable with the role that it has settled into during the course of its ongoing standoff with the publisher Hachette—unrepentant and unyielding monopoly monster—now wishes to explain itself: It's also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 [...]

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3

The 9/11 Summer Blockbuster Machine

This poster, is by the usual standards of Hollywood graphic design, fairly mundane, but for its perspective: the viewer looks up from the base of a glass tower, toward its apex, which has been displaced by a burst of fire and smoke and glass. Four bodies are hurtling from the top of building, away from the fiery void, toward the ground. You didn't have to an employee of the Port Authority's PR office, an overly sensitive New Yorker, or even a mild-mannered concern troll to feel like you're huffing esters from the ashes of the World Trade Center by looking at this poster—even leaving aside the film's Australian release date [...]

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10

How to Plagiarize a Fart Joke

There is yet another plagiarism scandal afoot. I declare it a silly one, and therefore predict that what I am writing here will raise a mini-foofaraw in journalistic circles. It may well get me targeted by the same journalism Internet sleuths who broke this “scandal,” and they might comb my oeuvre trying to prove that I am a plagiarist myself, which might explain why I am daring to question the agreed-upon level of public tsk-ing, using the agreed-upon hair-trigger definition of what constitutes theft in our a shabby new world of frantic Internet journalism that, in its very DNA, happens to encourage and reward theft.

To make A Point [...]

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4

The Cost of a World Trade Center Image

According to the Port Authority: Fishs Eddy, a well-known housewares store at Broadway and 19th Street, is “unfairly reaping a benefit from an association with the Port Authority and the attacks” of Sept. 11. How? By selling two lines of goods — “212 New York Skyline” and “Bridge and Tunnel” — that are adorned with fanciful, cartoonish depictions of the twin towers, the new 1 World Trade Center and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, labeled with their names, all of which the agency claims as its own assets.

The Port Authority, the steward of the very idea of 9/11, and all that surrounds and permeates it, is [...]

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1

Filtering Technology Advanced

Whisper's advanced technology to reduce the amount "meanness" floating around on its service, otherwise known as "libel," has a high cost: The company, based in this city’s Venice neighborhood, says it has built filters to reduce celebrity gossip and everyday name-calling. "We have a huge layer of technology that detects proper names and puts those posts in a different queue for evaluation by 130 full-time human moderators," Mr. Heyward said. "At least in the short term, these policies have been growth inhibitors for us."

What a terrible thing this at least passing interest in making people less savage hath wrought: an inhibition of growth, a startup's only [...]

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