Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. An Open Letter to Millennials

Sixty-year-old Kevin Mims has written an open letter to younger generations explaining why he can’t “purge [his] brain of the more problematic voices of [his] generation,” such as Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and Garrison Keillor. The letter’s introduction, like every paragraph that follows, is pitch-perfect:

I probably deserve some of the scorn I often see heaped onto working-class white male Boomers without a college degree. I haven’t been smart with my money. I work in a low-paying service-sector job. I’ve eaten more red meat and rich desserts than is good for anyone, and I like things that every enlightened individual knows are awful: the Eagles, pork chops with mint jelly, the paintings of Bob Ross, Jerry Lewis movies, Billy Joel, cargo shorts, TV shows like Blue Bloodsand Castle and Two and a Half Men.

Mims isn’t asking for sympathy: “I’ve noticed that whenever I speak up in defense of some icon or other, fondly remembered from my youth but since disgraced, I can sense the quiet judgment and consternation of you and other Millennials. Of course, I would like to be more woke—I truly would—but it’s impossible for me to separate myself from the era in which I grew up.” 

2. Still Waiting for the Bus

Why has public transit failed in the United States? According toJonathan English in CityLab, there aren’t enough buses:

Vast swaths of urban areas are untouched by full service bus routes. For those who do live near one, it’s quite likely that the bus wouldn’t get them where they need to go, unless their destination is downtown. A bus that comes once and hour, stops at 7 pm, and doesn’t run on Sundays—a typical service level in many American cities—restricts people’s lives so much that anyone who can drive, will drive. That keeps ridership per capita low.

It's worth looking at the maps that English created to compare the transit systems of four major U.S. cities to that of Toronto, a city with three-times more riders.

3. Jeff Bezos on “Mavericks”

Earlier this month, Bezos spoke with retired Gen. Larry Spencer at the Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. Their conversation covered innovation, management, the future of space travel, and more. Bezos also talked about how to deal with mavericks inside an organization:

They’re a spice. I wouldn’t recommend having 90 percent mavericks…You have to teach the value that these people bring. But also I would push hard on the mavericks to say, you also have to be organized. You can’t just be a crazy person. It’s fine to be a maverick, but write your ideas down. Sell your ideas. Persuade. Create the conditions where the ideas can blossom. If you’re just purely a creative person with zero organizational skills, you’re probably not going to get much done. 

4. Is Social Media Making Us Sick?

Sarah Perry digs into the literature that explores what the Internet is supposedly doing to our psychology and sociology. She comes away a skeptic: “Other than spending more time staring at screens (as an outsider would report), Social Media Humans act pretty much the same.”  She continues:

People find it fun and lucrative to tell causal stories about how technology is changing humanity. But when we are not engaged in this hobby of social media, it is difficult to find hard evidence of a serious before-and-after effect. For instance, one of the most popular causal stories is that social media has caused increased mental illness, such as anxiety and depression…However, when using standard diagnostic criteria, there has been no change in rates of depression and anxiety between 1990 and 2010.

5. No Lessons Learned from Lehman

Ten years after the financial crisis, Alan Greenspan biographer Sebastian Mallaby rages at how much remains the same:

 The important lesson of the crisis is not that markets are fallible, which every thoughtful person knew already. It is that essential regulations — the sort that the supposedly anti-regulation Greenspan actually favored — are stymied by fractured government machinery and rapacious lobbies. Even today, the financial system has multiple overseers answerable to multiple congressional committees, because all this multiplying produces extra opportunities for lawmakers to extract campaign contributions. Vast government subsidies still encourage Americans to take big mortgages; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac still operate, despite endless talk of breaking them up. And although post-2008 regulations have ensured that banks are better capitalized, the lobbyists are pushing back. Merely a decade after the Lehman bankruptcy brought the world economy to its knees, the Trump administration is listening to them.

6. Bakers of the World Unite

“Popular books and health gurus claim that bread and the proteins it harbors can cause or contribute to foggy thinking, fatigue, depression, and diseases ranging from Alzheimer’s to cancer.”Nonsense, proclaims Markham Heid. The low-carb war on bread is half-baked:

While olive oil and fatty fish get most of the positive press, bread (and not just the whole-grain types) is considered a “major” component of Mediterranean-style diets, which have repeatedly been linked to health and longevity. Studies that have specifically looked at bread in the context of these diets have found that people who eat the most whole-grain breads — six slices or more a day — are the least likely to be overweight or obese. 

And speaking of high-carb health: The Journal of Archaeological Science reports that boulder mortars discovered in northern Israel were used to brew wheat and barley craft beer for ritual feasts 13,000 years ago!

Websites Worth Reading

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