Robinson Meyer, Houseplants Don’t Actually Clean the Air, The Atlantic (2019-03-09). "It's such an alluring and enticing idea," Elliot Gall, a Portland State University professor, told me. "But the scientific literature shows that indoor houseplants—as would be typically implemented in a person's home—do very little to clean the air." "My view is even harsher than that," Michael Waring, an engineering professor at Drexel University, told me. "I do not think that houseplants clean the air."
Charles Duhigg, Dr. Elon & Mr. Musk: Life Inside Tesla's Production Hell, Wired (2018-12-13). There’s a sense of tragedy in such stories because these men seemed, at one point, to rise above the masses and suggest that genius is possible. Silicon Valley in particular reveres these kind of heroes—and the more willful and ornery they are, the better. Technologists are often called upon to do things that seem impossible, and so they celebrate when doubters are proven wrong—when the dismissal of an idea becomes evidence of its visionary reach. The idea of the odd genius is afforded a special status within technology. People lionize inventors who listen to their intuition and ignore naysayers, who hold themselves and everyone else to a standard of perfection, regardless of what it costs those around them. Steve Jobs is gone; now we have Elon Musk.
Nathan Robinson, Meritocracy is a myth invented by the rich, The Guardian (2019-03-14). In reality, there can never be such a thing as a meritocracy, because there’s never going to be fully equal opportunity. The main function of the concept is to assure elites that they deserve their position in life. It eases the "anxiety of affluence", that nagging feeling that they might be the beneficiaries of the arbitrary "birth lottery" rather than the products of their own individual ingenuity and hard work.
Unconditional Love, This American Life (2019-03-08). [35:17] "I don't think he wants to hurt me. I don't worry about that at all." It's a very unsentimental view of her relationship with her child, but that is probably exactly what has made Heidi so successful.
That is, Heidi is an unusually pragmatic person. She's not a flowering earth mother with a wealth of love to give. She is fundamentally realistic, tough minded, and these are precisely the characteristics that are needed in this situation.
If you're the kind of person who actually needs love—really needs love—chances are, you're not the kind of person who's going to have the wherewithal to create it. Creating love is not for the soft and sentimental among us. Love is a tough business.
Episode 211: Sartre on Racism and Authenticity (Part One), The Partially Examined Life (2019-03-11). (notes) [13:00] So one of the things the anti-Semite is doing is they're grounding themselves in the irrational and the concrete and the intuitive, as over and against the universal and the rational. So the manifestation of that, right, is to say, look, I have a certain heritage, I have these societal values, my family's been in this country for hundreds of years, I simply inherit and possess these things and I don't have to do anything for them. I don't have to be smart, I don't have to achieve a lot, because--this is the strategy, according to Sartre, of the middle class--I just have to possess these cultural values, and in that sense I gain a status and a transcendence of everyday class and social hierarchies by way of that. So, without effort, without having to compare my status to others. So, he calls this a kind of mob equalitarianism or mob egalitarianism or, another way that he puts it that I like, is elite mediocrity, an aristocracy of birth where someone who's not at the top of the hierarchy can enjoy high level status through identification with country.
Jeremy Littau, Media's Fatal Flaw: Ignoring the Mistakes of Newspapers, Wired (2019-01-30). The accidental brilliance of the newspaper business model is it commoditized all those information needs to an audience that, pre-internet, had no other choice. You want a weather report? The newspaper had it. Looking for a job? The newspaper had it. Newspapers owned their readership, which had many needs but few choices. Advertisers showed up in droves to capitalize on this holy grail—a captive audience that could be reliably delivered in a defined space. The internet changed everything. The weather became a website, then an app. TV guides went online and became interactive and customizable. Classifieds became searchable and interconnected across regions, then states, and eventually the nation.
Ivan Maisel, The South Stands at Armageddon': Breaking the Sugar Bowl color barrier, ESPN (2019-02-26). The officials understood that they would be inviting a black player to be a subject of Sugar Bowl hospitality. Grier would dress in the locker room. Grier would shower in the showers. He would play on the Tulane Stadium field, and after the game, he would be invited to the dinner and dance held for the two teams at the Saint Charles Hotel. [...] "If he shows up, I won't block his way," manager Mike O'Leary said of Grier. "But you know he would never come. Traditionally, the St. Charles Hotel does not allow Negroes at dinners or dances."
The adventurous life of first solo kayaker on the Yellow River, CGTN (2019-03-02). "The most dangerous part is where the Yellow River flows from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to the Loess Plateau. The altitude abruptly drops from over 3,000 meters to only 1,000 meters. With such an altitude difference, the rapids are thundering." At the moment, he received an anonymous call from someone who had participated in the first Yellow River rafting 30 years ago, warning him to skip the dangerous section because "theoretically, no one could survive that."
Kevin Levin, W.E.B. DuBois on Confederate Monuments, Civil War Memory (2017-05-29). DuBois pushes right back against the myth of the Lost Cause. He refuses to draw a distinction between the Confederate government and the men in the ranks. DuBois clearly understood that as long as white southerners were able to mythologize the war through their monuments, African Americans would remain second class citizens. Confederate monuments did not just occupy the Jim Crow landscape. For Dubois, they helped to make it possible.
Episode #200: Escaping Excel Hell with Python and Pandas, Talk Python to Me (2019-02-21). (notes) [45:33] One of the things I've wanted to do but I haven't really done a whole lot of is, what kind of user groups can you set up in your company so that you have some of these peer resources to help them work through the process. Your podcast about the Apple Python training was really, really interesting and certainly a much larger scale than what I'm talking about, but I think that that would be another option is to try and get four, five, a dozen people, likeminded individuals, together and over the lunch hour start to introduce these concepts and build a community where they can learn and share their learning.
148 - Rule Makers, Rule Breakers, You Are Not So Smart (2019-02-25). (notes) [63:58] I think what is really important to understand is that these rise in populist leaders and mesmerizing personalities is not really that unique. There's nothing unique about this time period, about this particular cultural moment. What we can see in our data is that when people feel threatened, whether it's real or imagined, just like they do in the country level when they're facing diseases or disasters, they want stronger rules and they want more autocratic, independent leaders to help lead the way. It's something that's kind of deeply evolutionary, as I mentioned, and we can see that when you increase threat you tighten norms.
Graham Duncan — Talent Is The Best Asset Class (#362), The Tim Ferriss Show (2019-02-28). (notes) [44:41] What I feel like a really good coach can do is by listening to the way I'm making sense of something can observe, oh, you're actually assuming x, your grip--I think of it as grip--your grip on certain things is really tight. And if a coach can find what you're gripping really tightly, and that you're actually not--you can't articulate the opposite of this belief you have, that might be a sign that you have identity or ego caught up in that thing.
Penelope Trunk, Will Jeff Bezos Get Half of MacKenzie Bezos’s Fortune in the Divorce?, blog.peneleopetrunk.com (2019-01-13). MacKenzie has always stood up for her contribution in the marriage. But it’s not so easy for most women. Most women did not work side by side with their spouse to start the most disruptive company in the world.
Most women do their half of the team’s work and get very little credit for it. Because when it comes to spousal partnerships, society talks about the stay-at-home spouse like they are a freeloader, waiting to pick up their check in the divorce.
Jeffrey Bigham, A Camera is Watching You in Your AirBnB: And, you consented to it., jeffreybigham.com (2019-01-14). I’ve received a lot of requests for interviews and such, but I’m not sure how much more I have to say. I’ve also heard from many guests and hosts. Many guests have similar stories (absent the viral blog post and nice resolution, apparently…). I’ve also heard from a lot of hosts who have indoor cameras because guests rent their home to have huge parties, trash them, and then have trouble recouping their costs. It’s hard to be a guest and a host, and wifi cameras are fuel on the fire.
Finally, all of us need to think carefully about how we will live in an increasingly surveilled world. Just because it’s so easy to record everything now doesn’t mean we should.
Samuel Beckett, In Our Time (2019-01-17). [42:34] Beckett's incredibly interested in systematic thinking, but it's always systems that are on the point of breaking down. So at one level there's a sense that systems create a kind of hyper-order, but that hyper-order is always tipping over into a kind of absurdity. It's the sort of glitches in the systems, I think, that Beckett's really interested in.
#744 - It's No Joke: Prank Musical Greeting Card Earns $36,000/Month, Side Hustle School (2019-01-14). [09:50] Also, even though it was originally a pretty silly idea, the way he's been able to create longterm business value from it is through the execution of the idea. So it's not easy to build those relationships with vendors and make decisions about how many tens of thousands of cards to order. And then when disaster strikes, like that crazy experience with the battery's being duds, it's not a simple thing at all to figure out how to respond and recover. So that to me is where the value is, that is just as interesting as coming up with the initial idea. So if you hear this story and you think, "Oh, well, that's pretty cool but, you know, the whole trick was in the idea", I think the whole trick is in the execution of the idea.
Episode 207: Herder on Art Appreciation (Part One), The Partially Examined Life (2019-01-14). [33:33] "Taste in one art roused taste in every other art; there was, so to speak, a harmonious atmosphere in which the similarly tuned strings of all the different instruments vibrated and resonated at a single touch." I think in a lot of this stuff he's really trying to combine all these different elements. I really like that section about how one art can affect another art and you have to be open to that sort of thing happening.
[33:54] Yeah, you kind of picture New York City in certain periods where it's a hotbed of artistic expression, and it's not just music, and it's not just avant garde Andy Warhol stuff, it's, like, everything is influencing each other and all the barriers between the different arts go down.
Elisabeth Braw, Trucking Is the Security Crisis You Never Noticed, Foreign Policy (2018-09-19). "Transportation is too cheap," Huster said. "In the past, the fee per container going from Asia to Europe was often 2,000 euros [$2,300]. Today, it's 200 euros [$233]. And with freight shipping that cheap, people expect the truck part to be correspondingly cheap." According to a new survey by PwC, Amazon Prime customers value the unlimited free delivery offered by the service most, with 72 percent of them saying it's the main benefit of the service.
Lowell L. Getz, A Silent Witness To The Growth Of The University of Illinois, Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (2016-08-15). For undetermined reasons (there are several unverified suggestions), this stream was named the Boneyard. As Champaign became larger and university buildings were constructed near its banks, the Boneyard became essentially an open sewer. So foul was the water, in the early days of the University, it was common-place for tug of wars to be conducted over the Boneyard, the losers being dragged into the stinking water.
Penelope Trunk, To do something big, aim to be irrelevant., blog.peneleopetrunk.com (2018-12-23). I don’t believe specialization is bad. But I do believe it’s scary. You could get hurt, you could miss your big chance, you could be disappointed, you could fail publicly. But if you don’t learn to take risks by specializing early then you won’t be able to be great at anything later in life.
Kat Rosenfeld, The Millions Will Live on, But the Indie Book Blog Is Dead, Vulture (2019-01-09). But it's also true that the site's sustainability depended on attracting young writers who were willing to work for no or low pay in exchange for the mere possibility of a career boost. Reasonable people can disagree on whether such an arrangement is always detrimental to the literary sphere; certainly, the Millions couldn't have existed in its current form without it, especially in a world where readers still balk at paywalls or subscription models. But what seems undeniable is that unpaid (or unreliably paid) blogging is a young person's game. To a one, the Millions staffers I spoke to described loving their time at the site — but also finding the commitment impractical, and then impossible, as the responsibilities of adulthood, career, and family (particularly children) began to accrue.
664: The Harsh Reality of Innovative Companies, HBR IdeaCast (2019-01-08). [04:51] You want to celebrate the learning that comes from failure, not celebrating the failure. There's productive failures and there's unproductive failures, and you want to judge failures in terms of how much you learn. So, if you tried something new, and it's risky, and it doesn't work, so it quote-unquote fails, but you've now learned something about the path forward that could be attractive, that's worth celebrating the learning from that. If you just came up with a bad design or did sloppy work and you failed, that's not worth celebrating. The focus has got to be on the learning, not the failure.
Jon Udell, Critical mass and social network fatigue, blog.jonudell.net (2007-02-06). Years ago at BYTE Magazine my friend Ben Smith, who was a Unix greybeard even then (now he's a Unix whitebeard), made a memorable comment that's always stuck with me. We were in the midst of evaluating a batch of LAN email products. "One of these days," Ben said in, I think, 1991, "everyone's going to look up from their little islands of LAN email and see this giant mothership hovering overhead called the Internet.
How Super Mario became a global cultural icon, The Economist (2016-12-24). There is one aspect of his context, though, that matters: fun. Mr Abe turned up in Rio dressed as Mario not just because Mario is instantly recognisable around the world. He embodies the delight of play. Talking to the New York Times in 2008 the reclusive Mr Miyamoto explained that people like Mario and his ilk "not for the characters themselves, but because the games they appear in are fun. And because people enjoy playing those games first, they come to love the characters as well."
Frankie Huang, The Rise and Fall of China’s Cycling Empires, Foreign Policy (2018-12-31). Meanwhile, Shanghai is adding more docking stations, perhaps a return to the boring, but infinitely more manageable, version of the bike-share. There's always going to be a small audience for cycling—but it turned out to be a bad dream to build giant firms on.
Kickstarter: Perry Chen, How I Built This (2018-12-31). [22:28] In some ways we made every mistake in the book. We did one lap that way. Classic stuff like people with experience telling us, "You know, you shouldn't do something this way", and us being like "Well, we appreciate that, but, like, you know, it'll be different for us". And then of course it's like exactly what they said happened. Well, duh.