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Here's what I read in November


This was another tough month, with three hospital visits for my mother. For this and a few other reasons, my anxiety was through the roof, and I often lay awake in bed with my heart racing. As has been true a few times this year, I found it hard to have the mental clarity to pick up a book and dive into it.

Over Thanksgiving I finally found that peace again, and as ever, I find offline reading to be meditative and nurturing.

Notable Articles

The forgotten history of how automakers invented the crime of "jaywalking". Just another example of how deeply warped by capitalism American society really is. "Ultimately, both the word jaywalking and the concept that pedestrians shouldn't walk freely on streets became so deeply entrenched that few people know this history."

New data makes it clear: Nonvoters handed Trump the presidency. Even if you hate the eventual candidate, if you have the ability, please vote in 2020.

Sea-level rise could flood hundreds of millions more than expected. "The new analysis found that about 110 million people are already living on land that falls below daily average high tides today, compared with an estimated 28 million people under the earlier models."

‘I’m gonna lose everything’. "In farm country, mental health experts say they’re seeing more suicides as families endure the worst period for U.S. agriculture in decades. Farm bankruptcies and loan delinquencies are rising, calamitous weather events are ruining crops, and profits are vanishing during Trump’s global trade disputes."

Ambrosia, the Young Blood Transfusion Startup, Is Quietly Back in Business. What could be more emblematic of our current era than a startup that takes blood from young people and transfuses it into the rich? It's not just its superficial ghoulishness: the power dynamics here are chilling.

Climate change deniers’ new battle front attacked. "Mann stressed that individual actions – eating less meat or avoiding air travel – were important in the battle against global warming. However, they should be seen as additional ways to combat global warming rather than as a substitute for policy reform."

The voice from our Nest camera threatened to steal our baby. And apparently these devices are commonly hacked.

Scaling in the presence of errors—don’t ignore them. Scaling is incredibly difficult, and even more so when you're dealing with a codebase that wasn't built with it in mind. Tef writes well, and I wish he was more prolific.

Everyone is admitting what they get paid to work in journalism. "A web producer for Wirecutter, the consumer review site now owned by the New York Times, makes just $45,000, according to the list. An editor at the same site with three years of experience has a salary of only $62,000. For a job based in New York City, that seems barely livable." Yes and: it encourages the otherwise-supported and independently wealthy to get into journalism, creating a demographic skew across the industry that seriously underrepresents working class points of view.

Open Source Code Will Survive the Apocalypse in an Arctic Cave. Enjoy reading through the Elgg and Known source code, future humans. Sorry about the mess.

Me and Monotropism: A unified theory of autism. My friend Fergus on his autism for the British Psychological Society. "If, as I’ve argued, monotropism provides a common underlying explanation for all the main features of autistic psychology, then autism is not nearly as mysterious as people tend to think. We do not need to rely on theories which explain only a few aspects of autistic cognition, with no convincing explanation for sensory hyper- and hypo-sensitivity, or the intensity of autistic interests."

“The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet” and the Cold War 2.0. "Silicon Valley imperialism also prefers to understand Eastern Europe as more corrupt than itself, playing into Cold War 2.0 mythologies. Yet from the Cambridge Analytica scandal (which revealed that Facebook was just as, if not more, culpable in skewing the 2016 US election results than Russia and its Guccifer 2.0), to ongoing abuses of artificial intelligence, machine learning, exploitation, and data colonialism being employed by Big Tech, global corruption’s technological epicenter is clearly not Romania."

The Strange Life and Mysterious Death of a Virtuoso Coder. A sad story told evocatively; this is more a tale of a community in Ohio than it is about tech.

Government Secrets: Why and How A Special Agent-Turned-Whistleblower Uncovered Controversial Border Surveillance Tactics. A reminder again. "“It seemed these people's rights were being infringed on,” Petonak explained. “I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Everyone has rights. And just because I don't agree with your political stance on something, doesn't mean you don't have the same rights as every other person.”"

Uber plans to start audio-recording rides in the U.S. for safety. I'm of two minds. My knee-jerk reaction was that this is terrible - but having some protection against assault seems like a good idea. In many places, taxis do this automatically. The important thing is that you're told you're being recorded. (Of course, I don't trust Uber to do the right thing with these recordings.)

The Best Parenting Advice Is to Go Live in Europe. Parenting seems so much harder here, and like so many things, I don't understand why people seem to think it's okay.

Sacha Baron Cohen: Facebook would have let Hitler buy ads for 'final solution'. "Baron Cohen also called for internet companies to be held responsible for their content. “It’s time to finally call these companies what they really are – the largest publishers in history. And here’s an idea for them: abide by basic standards and practices just like newspapers, magazines and TV news do every day.”" Here are his words in full.

Weeknight Dinner Around the World. I loved this photo essay: 18 families around the world, sharing what they eat on a typical weeknight. Human and beautiful. (And hunger-inducing.)

Facebook and Google’s pervasive surveillance poses an unprecedented danger to human rights. From Amnesty International. "“We have already seen that Google and Facebook’s vast architecture for advertising is a potent weapon in the wrong hands. Not only can it be misused for political ends, with potentially disastrous consequences for society, but it allows all kinds of new exploitative advertising tactics such as preying on vulnerable people struggling with illness, mental health or addiction. Because these ads are tailored to us as individuals, they are hidden from public scrutiny,” said Kumi Naidoo."

White nationalists are openly operating on Facebook. The company won't act. "A Guardian analysis found longstanding Facebook pages for VDare, a white nationalist website focused on opposition to immigration; the Affirmative Right, a rebranding of Richard Spencer’s blog Alternative Right, which helped launch the “alt-right” movement; and American Free Press, a newsletter founded by the white supremacist Willis Carto, in addition to multiple pages associated with Red Ice TV. Also operating openly on the platform are two Holocaust denial organizations, the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust and the Institute for Historical Review."

Dial Up! "How the Hmong diaspora uses the world’s most boring technology to make something weird and wonderful." This is so cool: underground radio for a diaspora community based on conference call technology.

The California DMV Is Making $50M a Year Selling Drivers’ Personal Information. "They included data broker LexisNexis and consumer credit reporting agency Experian. Motherboard also found DMVs sold information to private investigators, including those who are hired to find out if a spouse is cheating."

My devices are sending and receiving data every two seconds, sometimes even when I sleep. "When I decided to record every time my phone or laptop contacted a server on the internet, I knew I'd get a lot of data, but I honestly didn't think it would reveal nearly 300,000 requests in a single week." What have we built for ourselves?

Amazon’s Ring Planned Neighborhood “Watch Lists” Built on Facial Recognition. "The planning materials envision a seamless system whereby a Ring owner would be automatically alerted when an individual deemed “suspicious” was captured in their camera’s frame, something described as a “suspicious activity prompt.”" What could possibly go wrong?

You can take my Dad’s tweets over my dead body. Twitter will start removing inactive accounts; that includes accounts owned by the deceased. "Big tech companies are good at a lot of things, but what they seem to lack is collective empathy and heart. When humans use the things you build and you stop treating them like humans, but rather like bits and bytes and revenue dollars, you’ve given your soul away. And maybe it’s just me getting older, but I’ve had about enough of it."

Pete Buttigieg Called Me. Here's What Happened. "But Pete Buttigieg listened, which is all you can ask a white man to do." A remarkable piece of writing.

Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in Schools. "By taking a decolonizing approach to teaching about Thanksgiving, teachers and families reject the myths of Thanksgiving and harmful stereotypes about Native peoples." Some great resources that all of us can use. I'm excited that these are the kinds of conversations we're having.

What keeps us going. 100 quotes from a cross-section of Americans on where they find meaning in life. I found this fascinating and very often alien: very often less relatable than I expected. But it's a strong portrait of a country in flux, with its anxieties written on its sleeve.

The Social Subsidy of Angel Investing. I think this cuts to the core of what makes fundraising in the Bay Area different, but I also think it's a problem. Angel investing has become a mark of social status. "In San Francisco, it’s angel investing. Other than founding a successful startup yourself, there’s not much higher-status in the Bay Area than backing founders that go on to build Uber or Stripe."

The Power is Running: A Memoir of N30. "On November 30, 1999, tens of thousands of anarchists, indigenous people, ecologists, union organizers, and other foes of tyranny converged in Seattle, Washington from around the world to blockade and shut down the summit of the World Trade Organization. The result was one of the era’s most inspiring victories against global capitalism, demonstrating the effectiveness of direct action and casting light on the machinations of the WTO." A first-hand account of that day.

Why we need to preserve black spaces in Detroit. "Detroiters are not opposed to economic development and revitalization; we're opposed to feeling uninvited in our own home. We're opposed to being told "no" for decades, for everything from mortgages to home improvement loans to development dollars, only to see that once you carve out a few portions where there are fewer of us, the property values suddenly rise."


Here's what I read in October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, and January.

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