Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. Instant Date Spoilers

It’s hard to argue with The Hairpin’s list of things that are immediate deal-breakers on a date: people who warn you about their dark sense of humor; anyone who wants to show you lengthy YouTube clips; men who are too serene from meditation; “TED talks”; and so on. But nothing sours a date more quickly than when someone starts talking about how much they love the printed book:  

Remember when e-readers first came out and we all wanted to kill ourselves because there was always some ghastly person holding forth about how TECHNOLOGY could never replace THE TEXTURE OF THE PRINTED PAGE? Jesus. E-readers are useful and good and you can go on holiday with them and how is this even up for discussion? … Fuhhhhhhhhhh. Full-on deal breaker. If I had to be on a date with someone and they started waxing all lyrical about The Smell and Feel Of A Book and being Transported Into Another World and how sick it is to be an introvert, I would call for the bill immediately, and then after that I would make myself invisible so that I could go up to this person at a later date and whisper in their ear that they were a nerd.

2. Teach a Man to Phish

Ransomware is no internet myth. Security experts predict that more than $1 billion will be paid in 2016 by people whose computer has been hacked by phishing software. TechCrunch has published a short list of small businesses (and a church!) that have been blackmailed and can only regain their data after agreeing to pay up. What’s scarier still is that ransomware is becoming a start-up opportunity:    

Hackers are getting clever, and now offer Phishing-as-a-Service, which is enabling more than 50,000 cyber thieves. An entity called Fake Game can help anyone become a phishing scam-artist. For just $3.50 /month (or $7.12 for three months) you could build a phishing campaign, steal passwords, and break into accounts. For any wannabe phisher, the ROI is very simple: Invest less than 10 bucks and scam at least $500, possibly more. It can be a neat little side gig.

3. Election Journalists Assess Journalists

Perhaps this is journalistic navel-gazing in the extreme. But the Columbia Journalism Review has put together a far-ranging oral history of journalists (from newspapers to TV to blogs) about the Trump campaign that is far more interesting than you would expect. It contains a number of gems, including this one from National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg:

The recriminations will be glorious. There’s this famous line where somebody asked Zhou Enlai what he thought of the French Revolution, and he said, “Too soon to tell.”

4. Email One-Upmanship

The Cooper Review has created an infographic on twelve ways to appear smart through email. It captures perfectly the smarmy, self-important mindset that is necessary for success in today’s workplace. One of the tips:

It’s impossible to pay attention to every active email thread all the time, but you must at least pay attention when your manager responds. Make sure you see the moment he responds, and then respond immediately with “Totally agree,” “Definitely,” or “Took the words right out of my mouth.”

5. Reading the Other Side

Cass Sunstein – prolific law professor, champion of behavioral economics, and overseer of regulation in the Obama White House – offers an early, post-election attempt to build bridges. In BloombergView, he recommends five books for liberal readers to “understand why so many of your fellow citizens disagree with you.” His suggestions include works by late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, health care critic Casey Mulligan, and property law expert Robert Ellickson. They might be persuasive, he warns:   

Having read these books, you might continue to believe that progressives are more often right than wrong, and that in general, the U.S. would be better off in the hands of Democrats than Republicans. But you’ll have a much better understanding of the counterarguments – and on an issue or two, and maybe more, you’ll probably end up joining those on what you once saw as “the other side.”

Not so fast. Nick Cohen, writing in The Guardian, offers a powerful critique of conservatives making peace with the rising new populists in Europe and the US. According to Cohen, conservatives are sniffing the air and catching the scent of the radical right, and it tempts them with the most seductive perfume in politics: the whiff of power.

6. Blowin' in the Wind

The gasoline-powered, two-stroke leaf blower has become the target of a crusade of journalists, including The Atlantic’s James Fallows. Why? The new suburbanites (professors, journalists) despise the yard-keeping habits of the old suburbanites (DIYers, non-urbanites). City Lab joins in: 

You could also use, you know, a freaking rake, like the pioneers did. (Or learn to mulch.) But let’s be honest: We as Americans have set certain landscaping expectations for our office parks, our median strips, and our suburban yards, and it involves blowing. Ours is a nation too vast to be groomed by hand tools. So we must learn to co-exist with these man-machine hybrids, the Blower Guys, as they roam the grasslands, blasting organic debris before them with their mighty nozzles.

It is worth noting that the Leaf Blower Wars emerge along with a renewed interest in urban planning scourge Jane Jacobs. The New Republic reviews a new collection of her writing.


Websites Worth Reading


Feeds We Follow

  • @Isikoff Veteran DC investigative reporter Mike Isokoff. Worth following post election
  • @GreatSmokyNPS Terrifying pictures of wildfires in the Smokies
  • @CityLab Links to stories on urban issues