Column: Our collective obsession with the trivial WASHINGTON (AP) — Persistently high unemployment. A sluggish economy. Debt. Yet what created one of the buzziest brouhahas in America last week? Enormous challenges pack the nation's plate, but this country just can't seem to get enough of the small stuff. It sometimes feels as if the collective obsession with the trivial is drowning out significant moments and overshadowing important debate. It happens everywhere. Americans say they crave the authentic, yet also admonish people who deviate from script. And in a world that grows more dizzying by the month, the easy and entertaining can be a lot more attractive than the complex and educational. "We're seizing on the tiny because our brains can't really do the work of processing every little piece of information we get. "This is something that is a combination of what's hard-wired into the brain ... multiplied by a system that we don't control," he says. —Rep. Maybe that's precisely it. You might be making a tiny investment in our future.
Gentrification’s insidious violence: The truth about American cities A few years back, when I was still a paramedic, we picked up a white guy who had been pistol whipped during a home invasion in Williamsburg. “I can’t believe this happened to me,” he moaned, applying the ice pack I’d given him to a small laceration on his temple. “It’s like a movie!” Indeed. While film narratives of white folks in low-income neighborhoods tend to focus on how endangered they are by a gangland black or brown menace, this patient was singular in that he was literally the only victim of black on white violence I encountered in my entire 10-year career as a medic. “What is distinctively ‘American’ is not necessarily the amount or kind of violence that characterizes our history,” Richard Slotkin writes, “but the mythic significance we have assigned to the kinds of violence we have actually experienced, the forms of symbolic violence we imagine or invent, and the political uses to which we put that symbolism.” It’s easy to fixate on physical violence. We need a new mythology.
False wins and the machine zone An essay by Randall Stross in Sunday’s New York Times examines the current state of machine-gambling technology. He cites Kevin A. Harrigan, part of the Gambling Research Team at the University of Waterloo, on the phenomenon of “false wins,” payouts that are less the amount wagered, on multi-line slots. As Stross explains: In a typical multi-line slot setup, a player can bet on up to 20 different pay lines in a single game. If a player wins on 9 of the 20 lines, resulting in a net loss, the machine still celebrates the occasion with sound and video effects. Congratulations! we hear all the bells and whistles advertising and socialization into conusmerism has prepared us for, but only for a moment. I also love the Latourian wording in Stross’s description that depicts the machine as “celebrating,” as if it experiences some sort of coercive joy that the human user, fused to the machine in a cyborg assemblage, must then also experience. Why, then, does she play? Sounds terrible, right?
Blue Bottle VC funding: Not just for the coffee? Stephen Davidson (left) uses tech darling Square to take customer orders at Blue Bottle in San Francisco. (Liz Halifa/Chronicle) So what’s going on with Blue Bottle Coffee? As Re/Code reports the darling coffee shop of hipsters and techies announced a $25.75 million investment from a handful of big tech names today. Add in another $20 million from Google Ventures, Index Ventures, True Ventures, Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and skate-boarding legend Tony Hawk back in 2012, and we are talking about a lot of cash for a string of urban coffee shops. On the surface, this seems like vanity investment. Certainly that’s part of it. “When we met [CEO James Freeman], it was instantly clear that Blue Bottle Coffee isn’t just about coffee drinks; it’s about so much more,” Tony Conrad of True Ventures wrote in a statement. We should be thinking less about the price of the cup of coffee but rather, the logistics it takes to create it.
Why You Never Finish Your To-Do Lists at Work (And How to Change That) LinkedIn released a survey last year revealing that our professional to-do lists are in dire need of a makeover. Turns out, we’re not so good at “doing” the things we tell ourselves we need to do. In fact, almost 90% of professionals admitted they’re unable to accomplish all the tasks on their to-do list by the end of an average workday. So if you're sick of tackling the same stale to-dos every day, it’s time to change that. 1. Let's be honest: If you wanted to get a complete view of everything you had to do for work right now, chances are you can’t find it all on a single list. And while it's generally good practice to separate work and play, having a single place for your work-related tasks is a must. Make sure, however, that you can add to your list from anywhere—which means that if you use a desktop app, you’ll want to set up a system to capture to-dos incurred away from your computer, such as assignments you get while in a meeting. 2. Download our 1-3-5 To-Do List! 3. 4. 5.
The Quest for Permanent Novelty By Michael W. Clune Matt Manley for the Chronicle Review I doubt anyone reading this will claim never to have thought, regarding some experience, "I wish this would last forever." Imagine you're sitting in the sun, holding your partner's hand, thinking, I wish this would last forever. When we do wish an experience would last forever, we don't wish it for very long. Bright Star! The poem's stark fusion of organic and geologic time scarcely mitigates the unimaginability of the desired state. In this sonnet, Keats struggles with an ancient problem. Augustine's image suffers from the same problem as Keats's. The first step to solving Keats's and Augustine's problem is to bring the goal into focus. But it doesn't last. Augustine feels this erasure. But what if what you felt the first time you heard a song could last forever? I divide the writers, artists, philosophers, and critics engaged in this effort into two camps. The works these writers produce are not works so much as workshops.
Gentrification report proposes bold solutions to stop displacement in Oakland Last week Causa Justa::Just Cause (CJJC) released a report titled Development Without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area. The 112-page document, prepared in collaboration with the Alameda County Public Health Department, goes beyond describing the public health implications of gentrification to proposing steps that cities like Oakland can take to stop displacement of historic residents. Six key principles create a framework for the report’s policy recommendations:Baseline protections for vulnerable residentsProduction and preservation of affordable housingStabilization of existing communitiesNon-market based approaches to housing and community developmentDisplacement prevention as a regional priorityPlanning as a participatory process “Because gentrification is an issue that crosses various different kinds of aspects, you actually do need a variety of policy strategies,” said Maria Zamudio, San Francisco Housing Rights Organizer with CJJC.
Origins of the Augmented Subject There’s a song on the 1997 Chemical Brothers album Dig Your Own Hole that reminds one of your authors of driving far too fast with a too-close friend through a flat summer nowhere on a teenage afternoon (windows down, volume up). It’s called “Where Do I Begin,” and the lyric that fades out repeating as digital sounds swell asks: Where do I start? Where do I begin? Where do we start, or begin–and also, where do we stop? As a thought experiment, consider the following: Your hand is a part of “you,” but what if you had a prosthetic hand? The Augmented World Credit: Shirin Rezaee Both as a dream and as a subsequently realized ambition, the Web has curiously been characterized as constituting a discrete world or reality that is somehow separate from the reality we all inhabit. Contemporary dualists love to treat the fantasy “worlds” of massive multiplayer online games such World of Warcraft as if they are microcosms of the Web as whole. Who Inhabits the Augmented World? Credit: Marco Papale 1.
Why Data God Jeffrey Hammerbacher Left Facebook To Found Cloudera It's almost mythic: Archetypical data scientist Jeffrey Hammerbacher is sitting across the table from archetypical journalist Charlie Rose in the infinite blackness of the television interview. Rose repeats to Hammerbacher--who's a founder of data analytics company Cloudera--a line from an interview he gave Businessweek back when he was an early employee hustling stats for Harvard bud Zuckerberg at Facebook: "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads." And Rose, in his politeness, left off the last part of the line: "That sucks." There's a pregnant moment. Explaining the epitaph Looking back through the Businessweek article, the Hammerbacher of two years ago seemed a little peeved by the state of data in tech--thus the above admission. Sitting across from Rose, Hammerbacher shrugs off the characterization. The job to be done But he isn't. Instead, he wants to build tools to accelerate the pace of science. What Cloudera--And Big Data--Does
Unmanned Flight: The Drones Come Home At the edge of a stubbly, dried-out alfalfa field outside Grand Junction, Colorado, Deputy Sheriff Derek Johnson, a stocky young man with a buzz cut, squints at a speck crawling across the brilliant, hazy sky. It’s not a vulture or crow but a Falcon—a new brand of unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, and Johnson is flying it. The sheriff ’s office here in Mesa County, a plateau of farms and ranches corralled by bone-hued mountains, is weighing the Falcon’s potential for spotting lost hikers and criminals on the lam. A laptop on a table in front of Johnson shows the drone’s flickering images of a nearby highway. Standing behind Johnson, watching him watch the Falcon, is its designer, Chris Miser. A law signed by President Barack Obama in February 2012 directs the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to throw American airspace wide open to drones by September 30, 2015. The Falcon can fly for an hour, and it’s easy to operate. Offspring of 9/11 Dreaming in Dayton Another Man’s Nightmare
If you think we're done with neoliberalism, think again | George Monbiot ‘The demands of the ultra-rich have been dressed up as sophisticated economic theory and applied regardless of the outcome.' Illustration: Daniel Pudles How they must bleed for us. In 2012, the world's 100 richest people became $241 billion richer. They are now worth $1.9 trillion: just a little less than the entire output of the United Kingdom. This is not the result of chance. The policies that made the global monarchs so rich are the policies squeezing everyone else. Before I go on, I should point out that I don't believe perpetual economic growth is either sustainable or desirable. Last year's annual report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development should have been an obituary for the neoliberal model developed by Hayek and Friedman and their disciples. The remarkable growth in the rich nations during the 50s, 60s and 70s was made possible by the destruction of the wealth and power of the elite, as a result of the 1930s depression and the second world war.
20 ways to not be a gentrifier in Oakland (Community Voices) By Dannette Lambert Gentrification is the word of the day in Oakland. Everywhere you look people are asking, “Am I a gentrifier? Is it bad? If you come into someone’s home, do you immediately start rearranging it and moving furniture in? No, of course not. And yet, recently arrived residents of Oakland are doing just that. So I’ve put together a few how-to’s for avoiding the gentrifier label in Oakland: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. Dannette Lambert is a community organizer and resident in Oakland, CA who works for City Councilperson Dan Kalb. Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. To follow the discussions on OL about gentrification, follow this link.
Thomas Laqueur reviews ‘The Wreck of the ‘Titan’’ by Morgan Robertson, ‘Shadow of the ‘Titanic’’ by Andrew Wilson, ‘‘Titanic’ 100th Anniversary Edition’ by Stephanie Barczewski, ‘The Story of the Unsinkable ‘Titanic’’ by Michael Wilkinson and Robert Hamil Premier Exhibitions Inc. describes itself as ‘the leading provider of museum-quality exhibitions throughout the world’: Bodies lets visitors ‘see inside carefully preserved real anatomical specimens’ and Dialog in the Dark features New York in a blackout (‘and here’s the twist – your guide is visually impaired’). But Premier Exhibition’s core business is RMS Titanic Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary that has exclusive rights to salvage artefacts from the wreck that was discovered under 12,500 feet of water in 1985. The spoils can be seen by the public in ‘Titanic’: The Experience next to Disney World in Orlando or in ‘Titanic’: The Artefact Exhibition at several venues, among them the Atlantic Station in Atlanta and the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where it shares a bill with the comedian Carrot Top and Menopause: The Musical. Almost from the start there was an irresistible theatricality about the sinking of the world’s greatest ship. But it is an ill wind that blows no good.