Things tagged bestof:

The Future of Cities

A scattershot short docu on youtube by Oscar Boyson, but a decent intro to lots of things I think about:



Under Trump, red states are finally going to be able to turn themselves into poor, unhealthy paradises

Ignore the dumb headline, and stay for this by Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post:

After all, if Republicans cut taxes — in particular, taxes on investment income — then the biggest winners are going to be the residents of Democratic states where incomes, and thus income taxes, are significantly higher. Governors and legislatures in those states — home to roughly half of all Americans — will now have the financial headroom to raise state income and business taxes by as much as the federal government cuts them — and use the additional revenue to replace all the federal services and benefits that Republicans have vowed to cut.

and think again about how you can move your government more local, and less federal, thanks to republicans.



Holiday Hole

The holidays are here, and everything in America is going really well. To celebrate Black Friday, Cards Against Humanity is digging a tremendous hole in the earth.



Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above

Monte Reel in Bloomberg Businessweek:

Pritchett had no idea that as he spoke, a small Cessna airplane equipped with a sophisticated array of cameras was circling Baltimore at roughly the same altitude as the massing clouds. The plane’s wide-angle cameras captured an area of roughly 30 square miles and continuously transmitted real-time images to analysts on the ground. The footage from the plane was instantly archived and stored on massive hard drives, allowing analysts to review it weeks later if necessary.

Since the beginning of the year, the Baltimore Police Department had been using the plane to investigate all sorts of crimes, from property thefts to shootings. The Cessna sometimes flew above the city for as many as 10 hours a day, and the public had no idea it was there.

The city wide panopticon that can solve crimes by rewinding time.



Mapping the Mercantilist World Economy

Eric Ross:

Our current globalized capitalist world economy was built on Mercantilist foundations, put in place in the first phase of global European expansion, the second phase being that of the formal European empires of the industrial age. In the case of the “New World” in the Americas, Europe’s Mercantilists were creating entirely new trade networks and hinterlands. In the Old World of Afro-Eurasia however, Europe was rearranging the existing, much older, world economy it had been part of since the Middle Ages (see Andre Gunder Frank’s Re-Orient and Jim Blaut’s The Colonizer’s Model of the World). I wanted to illustrate this first phase of global capitalism with thematic maps.


And he continutes through to the Britsh empire ca. 1750.



Brand New Subway

Jason Wright:

Brand New Subway is an entry into the “Power Broker” Game Design Competition. It’s an interactive transportation planning game that lets players alter the NYC subway system to their heart’s content.

Via Kottke.



Financial Cryptography 2016



A Message to Our Customers

Tim Cook at apple.com:

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. 

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

About time a corporation stood up, the telecoms sure haven’t, so Apple took on the role, and now have the opportunity to make a needed stand.



The big sleep

Julia Medew in The Age:

The two scientists relished life. They skied, went bushwalking and climbed mountains, often taking their three young daughters with them. Their cultural and intellectual pursuits were many - classical music, opera, literature, wine, arguments over dinner with their many friends. They donated 10 per cent of their annual income to political and environmental movements. Family events were spent thoroughly debating the topics of the day.

As their capacity declined, the conversation about ending their own lives became more serious and their rejection of what Peter called “religious do-gooders” became more fierce.

“It was also a way into their favourite topics; philosophy, ethics, politics, the law …,” says their youngest daughter, Kate. “The idea that their end-of-life decisions could be interfered with by people with the superstitions of medieval inquisitors astounded them, and alarmed them.”

Via Next Draft



Why real-world governments don’t have the consent of the governed – and why it matters

Ilya Somin in The Volokh Conspiracy:

The Declaration of Independence famously states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But, sadly, this is almost never the case in the real world. If it is indeed true, as Abraham Lincoln famously put it, that “no man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent,” that principle has more radical implications than Lincoln probably intended. Few if any of those who wield government power measure up to that lofty standard.

A fantastic overvew of some things I feel very strongly about. And his conclusion is exactly the same as mine:

The nonconsensual nature of most government policies also strengthens the case for devolving power to regional and local authorities in order to increase the number of issues on which citizens can “vote with their feet” and thereby exercise at least some degree of meaningful consent.



The Problem We All Live With

Brutal This American Life episode:

Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there’s one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation.

Via kottke.org



A Clinton Story Fraught With Inaccuracies: How It Happened and What Next?

NYT Public Editor:

The story certainly seemed like a blockbuster: A criminal investigation of Hillary Rodham Clinton by the Justice Department was being sought by two federal inspectors general over her email practices while secretary of state.

It’s hard to imagine a much more significant political story at this moment, given that she is the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.

The story – a Times exclusive — appeared high on the home page and the mobile app late Thursday and on Friday and then was displayed with a three-column headline on the front page in Friday’s paper. The online headline read “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” very similar to the one in print.

But aspects of it began to unravel soon after it first went online.



How often do ethics professors call their mothers?

“Cheeseburger ethics”

Eric Schwitzgebel at Aeon:

Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would?

To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought. They’ll toss out responses that strike me as flip or are easily rebutted, and then they’ll have little to add when asked to clarify. They’ll say that academic ethics is all about abstract problems and bizarre puzzle cases, with no bearing on day-to-day life – a claim easily shown to be false by a few examples: Aristotle on virtue, Kant on lying, Singer on charitable donation. They’ll say: ‘What, do you expect epistemologists to have more knowledge? Do you expect doctors to be less likely to smoke?’ I’ll reply that the empirical evidence does suggest that doctors are less likely to smoke than non-doctors of similar social and economic background. Maybe epistemologists don’t have more knowledge, but I’d hope that specialists in feminism would exhibit less sexist behaviour – and if they didn’t, that would be an interesting finding. I’ll suggest that relationships between professional specialisation and personal life might play out differently for different cases.

It seems odd to me that our profession has so little to say about this matter. We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.


In most cases, we already know what is good. No special effort or skill is required to figure that out. Much more interesting and practical is the question of how far short of the ideal we are comfortable being.



The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous.

Anyone paying attention knows this already, but here is an absolutely brutal article calling them out in detail.

William Saletan at Slate:

The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.



How Buildings Learn - Stewart Brand



A Swedish Ad Campaign, for Kalles Kaviar, Tests the World’s Gag Reflex


Cecilia Sajland, marketing manager for Kalles, said, “We wanted to show other nationalities’ incomprehension when it comes to very Swedish tastes like Kalles,” adding, “We wanted Swedes to feel unique and proud of the brand and the taste.”



The Web We Have to Save


Hossein Derakhshan:

Seven months ago, I sat down at the small table in the kitchen of my 1960s apartment, nestled on the top floor of a building in a vibrant central neighbourhood of Tehran, and I did something I had done thousands of times previously. I opened my laptop and posted to my new blog. This, though, was the first time in six years. And it nearly broke my heart.

You should really read that, powerful stuff.

For me, I feel like the solution is a re-emergence of the cultural elite on the web, as it was to a large degree in the late 90’s early 00’s. Then it was the whole web that was the elite, by definition. Now it will be self selected group(s), rejecting the draw of commercialism, and mass appeal, and returning to a smaller community of people who care about discourse. The good news is that this community will no longer be elite by virtue of privilege, but by choice and self selection. Bloggers who whine that only 800 people read their blog on the web, but get 40k impressions on FB? Ok, you are making a choice. People who chose to write to the 800 readers are joining a different community.



The Really Big One

Fantastic science writing, don’t miss this.

Kathryn Schulz in The New Yorker:

In the end, the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than eighteen thousand people, devastated northeast Japan, triggered the meltdown at the Fukushima power plant, and cost an estimated two hundred and twenty billion dollars. The shaking earlier in the week turned out to be the foreshocks of the largest earthquake in the nation’s recorded history. But for Chris Goldfinger, a paleoseismologist at Oregon State University and one of the world’s leading experts on a little-known fault line, the main quake was itself a kind of foreshock: a preview of another earthquake still to come.



The Exit Interview: I Spent 12 Years in the Blue Man Group

Eric Grundhauser at Atlas Obscura:

Blue Man Group is a theatrical performance that defies easy categorization—part drumming, part acting, part Tobias Fünke—known for an audition process that competes with Manhattan preschools for difficulty of acceptance. But what’s it like to be behind all that blue paint? We spoke to a recently-retired Blue Man named Isaac Eddy. For over 12 years, Eddy lived and performed behind the thick blue veneer and anonymous black garb of the Blue Men. From Las Vegas to New York to London, Eddy portrayed one of the wordless azure elementals first developed by performance artists Chris Wink, Matt Goldman, and Phil Stanton in 1991.

In our conversation with Eddy, we found that he was far from silent about his experience as a Blue Man. From the struggles of learning drumming for the audition, to how the behavior of dogs informed his performance, to his portentous final show, Eddy let us in on just about every aspect of his time under the Blue, and why he decided to be a human again.



Bitter Lake

The Guardian's review.

Adam Curtis’s beautiful, gripping film unravels a story of violence, bloodshed and bitter ironies. Beginning with a fateful meeting between President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, Curtis delves into a mass of historical archives to shed light on Afghanistan and the west.

The film was quite something. When I heard it was “found footage” I thought it was going to be something else. I still wish it had been that, but what it is still amazing. Definitely worth watching.