TIME NextDraft

Google’s Secret Drone Delivery Program and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 29, 2014

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1. Let’s Just Wing It

My kids are much more amazed by snail mail than email. When I was kid, my friend Mordy used to live next to an old Pony Express stop, and we’d talk about the time and effort that must have gone in to delivering a package by horseback. There’s always been something magical about the process of getting an item from point A to point B. And it keeps getting faster; from next month, to next week, to next day. And now we want to get transit time even closer to now. The notion of receiving a package via a small aircraft seems almost ludicrous. But many big companies are totally serious about dropping a delivery at your doorstep via small, autonomous flying machines. (Now we just need a team of robots to get it from the front door to the couch.) The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal takes you inside google’s secret drone-delivery program.

+ WaPo shares some of the philosophy of Google’s Project Wing: “Think of the mom stuck at home with two sick kids, the hiker who’s met a poisonous snake, or the farmer out in the field with a sick animal. It could also open up new models for sharing goods rather than owning them — who needs a power drill for more than eight minutes a year?” For my sake, I hope these drones are strong enough to carry a power drill and someone who knows how to use a power drill.

2. Laptop of Doom

“Use small grenades with the virus, and throw them in closed areas like metros, soccer stadiums, or entertainment centers. Best to do it next to the air-conditioning.” Foreign Policy on what they found inside an Islamic State’s terror laptop of doom.

+ The U.K. has raised its terror threat level to severe.

+ Is waterboarding torture? The Islamic State seems to think so.

3. Weekend Reads

“Whenever a musical number comes on we all get up to sing and dance. People here have no inhibitions. We don’t have to worry about our kids feeling embarrassed by us.” Buzzfeed’s Alex French on the “boomers who want to spend their golden years with access to 11 a.m. happy hours, thousands of activities, and no-strings-attached sex.” (Eat your hearts out, Millennials). Seven days and nights inside the world’s rowdiest retirement community.

+ “Of all Motorola’s inventions, none were as transformative as the cell phone. A request from Orlando Wilson, Chicago’s police chief from 1960 to 1967, provided the impetus. Violent crime in the city was surging. Wilson wanted his patrol officers out of their cars and on foot, but he didn’t want them on the street without a way to stay connected.” Chicago Magazine on the rise and fall of a once dominant company: What Happened to Motorola?

+ “Almost 40 percent of the world’s population lives in countries, primarily in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Persian Gulf, where abortion is either banned or severely restricted.” So the abortion wars are getting more local. Down to individual homes. From NYT Mag: The Dawn of the Post-Clinic Abortion.

+ When people find out that I’m the nation’s first and only full-time barbecue editor, they tell me it sounds like the coolest job in the world. Then they ask me about my cholesterol.” From Texas Monthly: Confessions of a Fat Bastard.

4. Just Say Novorossiya

As tanks and soldiers crossed the border from Russia, Vladimir Putin compared Ukrainian soldiers to Nazi invaders in World War II and addressed remarks to Novorossiya or “New Russia, a politically loaded term used by the separatists for the part of eastern Ukraine that they want to become part of the Russian Federation.”

+ Quartz: The invasion of Ukraine, in maps, satellite photos, and video.

5. Can You Read Me Now?

A study out of UCLA found that kids who spend a lot of time in front of screens are less adept at reading the emotions of others. “Sixth-graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions and computers.” (Sidenote to my kids: The human emotion I’m trying to convey is Get the hell off the damn iPad.)

+ Syndicated from Kottke: “A plan used to be simple: you would agree to meet someone at a certain time and place and then you would meet them there and then. Now, a plan is subject to all sorts of revisions because “cellphones make people flaky as #%@*“.

6. Shabbat, Shalom

Where does the time go? It turns out that question is not rhetorical. The time goes into your job. According to Gallup, an average “full-time workweek” clocks in at about 47 hours a week.

+ 80% of Americans took a week’s vacation in 1976. Just 56% will in 2014.

7. Asked and Answered

If you want to maximize the odds of catching a foul ball, where should you sit in the ballpark? Where is America’s deadliest intersection? How do they make designer dogs? Find these answers and more in Time’s Answers Issue: Your guide to everything you didn’t know you need to know.

8. Commander in Chef

He is the ultimate first family insider. The president spent five hours at his apartment to celebrate his last week as a bachelor. And it all started when he stole their Cheetos. Meet the the Obama’s Foodmaster General.

+ NatGeo: Should we be eating like our ancestors?

9. What Does David Chase Know?

During the past week, the Internet has been obsessed with the identity of Hello Kitty, and the current health status of Tony Soprano. In Vox Todd VanDerWerff argues that both stories are “actually about the exact same thing: authorial intent.” It could actually be about something else: It’s more fun to talk about Hello Kitty than than Ebola.

+ I’m guessing something similar also played a factor in our nearly instant national obsession with Obama’s tan suit.

10. The Bottom of the News

“I thought he was pretty damn nice, because I thought I was gonna get fired.” The Daily Beast on Paul Shaffer’s life with Letterman.

+ Seventy-five percent of Ikea’s catalog is computer generated imagery (which means it probably lasts a lot longer than the real thing).

+ Bad news for tennis fans: Grunting may actually help players play better.

+ Take a look at the trailer for Jon Stewart’s directorial debut. Spolier alert: It’s not a comedy. Like, really not.

+ MSN Messenger is shutting down. Why’d I even bother reserving usernames for my grandkids…

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TIME NextDraft

Now Teenagers Value Tech Over Clothes and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 28, 2014

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1. Cell Bottom Blues

This year, your back-to-school shopping may have included more devices and downloads than pieces of attire. According to the NYT, today’s teenagers favor tech over clothes. One retail analysts explains how his focus groups go these days: “You try to get them talking about what’s the next look, what they’re excited about purchasing in apparel, and the conversation always circles back to the iPhone 6.”

+ Of course, the days of thinking of tech and fashion as two separate verticals could soon be ending. From Horace Dediu: Apparel is Next.

+ Often tech trends are as hard to predict as the next fashion craze. The Economist has a chart that details the emerging technologies hype circle. (I was using one of those to hold up my corduroys back in the 80s.)

2. Making History

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Or maybe not. As the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik explains: “What history generally teaches is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they’re making it.” If anything, history reminds us is to keep a current crisis in perspective, because things have been really bad before. By doing this, we can better avoid the notion that “each crisis is a historical crisis in need of urgent aggressive handling — even if all experience shows that aggressive handling of such situations has in the past, quite often made things worse.” (That sounds like an excellent excuse to take the rest of the day off.)

+ That said, has this August been the worst month ever?

3. (In) The Way of the Gun

The gun debate is back in the headlines again after a 9 year-old being taught to shoot an Uzi lost control of the weapon and accidentally shot and killed her instructor. Here’s BloombergBusinessweek with four blunt points.

+ Welcome to Nucla, Colorado. A town of fewer than 700 people with a unique law: The head of every household must own a gun.

+ In News 21, journalism students go deep on big subjects. The current topic: America’s Gun Wars.

4. Naming Names

Anonymity enables the worst Internet citizens to ruin the conversation for the rest of us. But that’s only part of the story. GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram argues that the more important part of anonymity is that it provides a safety veil for everyday people. (Maybe everyday people are the problem…)

+ Rebecca Mead on the professor and the trolls: The Troll Slayer.

5. The Hollywood Sign Points North

“Watching the ways in which his two teenage sons consumed media, Robbins became convinced that the future of youth entertainment wasn’t in broadcast or cable TV but in short-form digital videos, particularly on YouTube.” There’s a good business lesson there. Follow the kids is the new follow the money. BusinessWeek’s Felix Gillette follows it all (and just about every major media and technology company) to the YouTube networks that have become Hollywood’s big money hit factory.

6. Rabbit Recycles?

“Moran pedaled home, traded his bike for his car, and returned to Updike’s house. He hefted the trash bag filled with the honorary degrees from the street. During the years that followed, he would return to Updike’s curb more times than he could count.” The Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance with the odd story of the man who made off with John Updike’s trash. Who really owns a great writer’s legacy? (And does Updike recycle?)

7. Don’t Snort the Water

More than 12,000 residents of St John Parish in Louisiana have been alerted to the disturbing news that their drinking water tested positive for a brain-eating amoeba. So far there are no current illnesses, and health officials have tried to calm nerves by explaining that “the amoeba can only be harmful if ingested through the nose.” Uh, so, yeah, go ahead and drink up.

+ The other water that Louisiana residents need to worry about is the rising ocean. The state is losing a football field of land every 48 minutes. ProPublica with an interactive report: Losing Ground.

8. Feigned Ankle

USC senior football captain Josh Shaw was regarded as a hero after he injured his ankles jumping off a balcony to save his drowning nephew. Only, it turns out that he made the whole thing up. He’s been suspended from the team, and this could just be the beginning of the story.

+ Meanwhile, USC senior running back Anthony Brown quit the team and took to social media to call head coach Steve Sarkisian a racist.

+ College football stadiums are more packed than ever. Except the student sections.

9. Almond In

“Almonds recently overtook peanuts as the most-eaten ‘nut’ (seed, technically) in the United States, and Americans now consume more than 10 times as many almonds as we did in 1965.” They are good for you. So of course, there’s got to be a dark side of almond use. Almonds should watch their back. I just saw a bottle of artisanal cashew milk in my local Whole Foods.

+ Shouts and Murmurs: “Yesterday, at our local grocer’s, Pa and I saw that there are not one but two competing companies trying to sell lowly cabbage as a ‘kale extender.’ Pa said, ‘The only thing I’d like to extend is my middle finger.'”

10. The Bottom of the News

The web nearly exploded when we learned that Sanrio execs suggested that Hello Kitty is not a cat: “She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat.” Yeah, and next you’re gonna tell me that Snoop is not really a Dogg. Sanrio has attempted to clarify. The Wire has collected the latest updates.

+ Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s numbers suggest he’s got a better than decent shot at re-election. Let that be a lesson to you.

+ Laird Hamilton shoots the pier at Malibu Lagoon and then saves a dude who had lost his board in rough surf. Of course he did. He’s Laird Friggin Hamilton.

+ Brad and Angelina are married.

+ Fx just ordered a show from Zach Galifianakis and Louis C.K. It’s about a clown. Enough said.

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TIME NextDraft

Study: Facebook and Twitter Users Don’t Voice Controversial Opinions and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 27, 2014

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1. Cat Got Your Tongue?

The Internet is supposed to be the vast network that provides a new and unprecedented way for us to share our diverse opinions. But it turns out that the Internet cats have got your tongue. According to a new survey from Pew, people who use Facebook and Twitter are less likely to share their opinions on controversial issues. And that self-censorship spills over to their offline lives as well. “Researchers said they detect what they call the spiral of silence phenomenon: Unless people know their audience agrees, they are likely to shy away from discussing anything controversial.” That’s really terrible. (Unless you think it’s good, in which case it’s really good.)

+ It’s amazing how powerful an impact online life can have on even longstanding friendships. I saw that first-hand during a trip to Vegas a couple years ago: What Happens in Facebook…

2. Ain’t No Change in the Weather

Given the need for Senate approval, there’s basically no way that the U.S. could sign a global climate change treaty. So President Obama is working on an international “agreement” instead. The goal is to avoid another Kyoto, when the world signed a climate change treaty and the Senate rained on their parade.

3. Worth It?

After fifty days of fighting and a couple days of truce, Quartz takes a look at the latest cease-fire in Gaza, by the numbers.

+ MoJo reports on a game called Peacemaker that let’s you try to solve the Middle East conflict.

+ Freed American journalist Peter Theo Curtis thanks the “brave determined and big-hearted people” who helped save him.

+ The New Yorker’s George Packer: “Among the many reasons to mourn Foley’s death is the loss of his reporting, and of reporting in general, from Syria.”

+ Another reporter who was once kidnapped while reporting in Syria explains why it wasn’t worth it: “Now that he’s gone, I wish I could believe that such an extraordinary person died striving to inform an American public yearning to know the truth. It’s harder to accept what really happened, which is that he died while people eagerly formed opinions on his profession and the topics he covered without bothering to read the stories he put in front of them.”

4. All You Can Eat Buffett

Let’s see if we can gain any insight into Warren Buffett’s investment strategy by looking at some of the companies he’s invested in: Coke, See’s Candy, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Wrigley. You know you want it all. And so does Buffett.

+ Who’s in the office? NPR graphs the American workday.

5. From Startup to Neverending

The process usually goes like this. You start a tech company. You make a few million bucks. Then you realize that, hey, life is good and you’d like to live a little longer. Like forever. Former techie Dave Asprey explains: “I decided that I was just not going to die. That would be my next challenge.” (My next challenge is taking up squash.) FastCo takes you inside the quest to disrupt death.

+ Don’t trust today’s scientists and geeks to find the cure for death? Well, for a couple hundred grand, you can swap your blood for antifreeze and wait things out.

+ Computer modeling and bioengineering could be good for you in the long run. In the near term, it could be even better for those creatures who suffer the slings and arrows (and scalpels) of animal testing.

+ Five diseases that wearables are tackling.

+ You’re not old. It’s just that your blood is old. The latest research on young blood.

6. The Dread Carpet

Remember that story about the white movie producer who was detained and handcuffed on the way to an Emmy party because police thought he was a bank robber? Neither does anybody else. But that did happen to a black producer, which at this point, surprised exactly no one.

7. A Superego, an Id and an Ego Walk Into a Bar

“Clients follow her up a narrow staircase, past the bar and VIP lounge, to a third-floor office where they sit on an old-fashioned red couch that used to belong to Groucho Marx. Clowns gape from the walls. Through the floorboards rise the muffled sounds of jokes living and dying on the stage below.” Meet the psychologist who works out of an office at a comedy club to help comedians to keep laughing.

8. Grad School of Hard Knocks

“People often ask if jail is like Orange Is the New Black, but I see nothing similar in incarceration and entertainment. Every day in jail, you are belittled and berated.” Cecily McMillan explains how she went from grad school to prison.

9. Cutting to the Chase

“I had been talking with Chase for a few years when I finally asked him whether Tony was dead. We were in a tiny coffee shop, when, in the middle of a low-key chat about a writing problem I was having, I popped the question. Chase startled me by turning toward me and saying with sudden, explosive anger, ‘Why are we talking about this?’ I answered, ‘I’m just curious.’ And then, for whatever reason, he told me. And I will tell you. So keep reading.” Spoiler alert. Tony lived. But the ending was really all about your imagination.

10. The Bottom of the News

We started this edition by questioning the ability of the Internet to provide a panacea. Let’s end with a reminder of all that is great about this online world of ours with this remarkably enjoyable video: Is this the new iPhone 6?

+ Can you read these classic first lines of novels written in emojis?

+ ESPN felt the need to report on Michael Sam’s showering habits. One of his teammates summed up the response: “Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it.”

+ Zara decides to pull their recently released shirt that looks like a concentration camp uniform. (Next, they should design themselves a dunce cap.)

+ The GoPro dog harness has arrived.

+ Coming soon to reality TV: Sex Box: A show where people have sex in a box on TV, and then discuss it with an expert panel.

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TIME NextDraft

The Awkward Part of The Emmys and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 26, 2014

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1. Stolen Television

This is undoubtedly television’s golden age, but as The New Yorker’s Sarah Larson explains, its top TV awards show is still in its awkward stage. At least the Emmys is the most child-friendly awards show. (Especially if you have children in their 80s.)

+ No, you weren’t watching last year’s show on a DVR. Breaking Bad and Modern Family once again took home the top awards. If you’re looking for a big trend, consider this. Increasingly, the shows that win the biggest awards are on pay cable and/or some other service that charges viewers to watch. We are creating a new Couchtocracy where the best of television is available only to those who can afford it. Everyone else is stuck watching shows like the Emmys. And this trend is not limited to TV. I just read a story about television’s paywall behind a newspaper’s paywall.

+ Here is a look at all the winners, the seven moments you (sort of) need to watch, and everyone’s favorite, the list of folks who got snubbed. Jon Hamm has thirteen nominations and zero wins.

+ Sofia Vergara says the notion that her spinning around on a pedestal during the show was sexist is “ridiculous.” The Internet disagreed.

+ And with this tweet, Adam Shankman won the Emmys.

2. Back to Stool

It’s back to school time, and that means it’s time for parents to become extra cautious about food allergies. Food allergies have gone through the roof in recent years, and scientists are trying to find the root cause of the surge. A new study has identified a gut microbe that stops food allergies in rodents. “The research fits neatly into an emerging paradigm that helps explain a recent alarming increase in food allergies and other conditions, such as obesity and autoimmune disease.”

3. Truce

After weeks of fighting, Israelis and Palestinians have reportedly agreed to a long-term truce. Hamas called the truce a “victory for the resistance.” It’s hard to see how this was a victory for anyone.

4. More Than You Think

A couple of recent surveys asked people in countries around the world if they had a favorable view of ISIS. The numbers might surprise you. In France, 16 percent of those surveyed said they supported ISIS.

+ ISIS is demanding a $6 million ransom for a 26 year-old American woman.

+ NBC News on the American who died fighting for ISIS.

5. Less White After Labor Day

For the first time, white American students are returning to public schools during a term in which they will no longer represent the majority: “In autumn 2014 the proportion of white pupils is expected to have fallen marginally below 50% for the first time, with about 26% of pupils Hispanic and 15% black.

+ Some kids are still enjoying Summer. And in some places, that’s because of a really strong amusement park lobby.

6. The New Editors

Twitter and YouTube banned images and videos of James Foley’s murder. That choice, on its own, made sense. But who made big tech companies the new editors of what we do and don’t get to see on the Internet. In The Atlantic, Dan Gillmor provides an answer: We did.

+ The Intercept: Should Twitter, Facebook and Google executives be the arbiters of what we see and read?

7. The Kill Bill

California just became the second state to pass a mandatory “kill switch” bill which requires all cell phones sold in the state to enable their owner to render them useless in the case of theft.

+ Maybe the kill switch needs to be applied more broadly. We can’t even stop sleeping with our phones. (My phone must prefer sleeping with my kids, because I keep finding it their rooms.)

8. Contagion Two

In order to stress that the idea of pouring fresh water on one’s head seems crazy, actor (and water charity co-founder) Matt Damon decided to tweak the ice bucket challenge and dump a bucket of toilet water on his head. (It might have been easier to just write a check.)

+ Coke just abandoned India expansion plans due to a lack of water.

9. Yes, Your Honor

The owner of North Dakota coffee shop lets the place work on the honor system. The coffee and pastries are all self serve. The prices are listed on a sign. And from there, it’s up to the customers to pay whatever they want. The result: People tend to pay over the asking price.

10. The Bottom of the News

We started with TV. Let’s end with it. New research explains why should really shouldn’t feel guilty about watching all that television.

+ A gadget that stops plane seats from reclining caused a fight that resulted in a diverted flight.

+ Greatest guitar riff ever? A panel says it’s Whole Lotta Love. Special thanks to perhaps the greatest guitar player ever for going to eleven with this explanation: “There was this intent to have this riff and the movement of it, so it was menacing as well as quite sort of caressing.”

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TIME NextDraft

The Ideal Earthquake Warning System and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 25, 2014

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1. You Have Ten Seconds

According to scientists at U.C. Berkeley, an earthquake early warning system sent an alert ten seconds before a 6.0 magnitude quake hit the Napa area. Researchers think they can get that number up to 40-50 seconds. What good would it do if such a system could be implemented before the next big one? A lot. As the LA Times reports, an alert of even less than a minute could give “time for elevators to stop at the next floor and open up, firefighters to open up garage doors, high-speed trains to slow down to avoid derailment and surgeons to take the scalpel out of a patient.”

+ How responsible are scientists when it comes to providing warnings about the risks of quakes? Matter’s David Wolman takes a look back at the case of seven Italian scientists who got their predictions very wrong and were convicted of manslaughter.

+ Different faults make different quakes. From NatGeo: What caused California’s Napa Valley earthquake?

+ Some wineries lost as much as fifty-percent of their wine.

+ Don’t worry. You’re not sleeping. You’re providing data and a marketing opportunity for Jawbone.

+ And this is just how we (shake, rattle, and) roll in California: An immediately iconic image captured shortly after the weekend’s quake.

2. It Seems Real This Time

Over the years, we’ve heard a lot about the promise of virtual reality. But these days it’s looking like we could be on the cusp of an amazing leap forward, in part because some very big tech companies want a piece of the action. From The Verge: The rise and fall and rise of virtual reality. I can’t wait to put on my virtual reality headset and finally get a break from all this distracting technology.

+ Last month, everyone was sure that Google was buying Twitch, a site where millions of people watch other people play video games. That deal died. Amazon moved in and made one of its biggest acquisition to date.

3. Terrorism’s New Brand

The land. The money. The weapons. The people. The shirts, magazines, and published annual reports. Take a look at some of these scary charts and numbers that present a snapshot of the rise if ISIS.

+ And as of today, they also control an airbase in Syria.

4. No Angel

As you’d expect, thousands of people and many media crews were on-hand for Michael Brown’s funeral. The Guardian has been providing photos and updates from the scene.

+ “He’s a waiter, a roller skater and a father of three.” Edward Crawford is also the person seen throwing back a tear gas container in a photo that came to represent the tensions in Ferguson.

+ “Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel.” With that line (and the article that followed), did the New York Times just give a basic course on everything the media gets wrong about black men?

+ “He occasionally smoked marijuana and drank alcohol, according to friends.” Jordan Lebeau: There are no angels — what The New York Times won’t tell you.

5. Have It Your Way, Eh

Burger King is in talks to buy Tim Horton’s, Canada’s coffee and donut chain. The deal would enable to Burger King to migrate its official tax jurisdiction north of the border. (If Canada gets our fast food-related taxes, we get hockey.)

6. The Happiness Formula

OK, you want to be happy? Here’s what you do. Live in a suburb. Spend your money on experiences. And listen to a lot of sad songs along the way.

7. That Alarming Sound

It’s that time of year when your alarm goes off just a little earlier because you have to get the kids to school on time. Maybe it’s time we hit the collective snooze button. Yet another study suggests that school starts too early and the sleep deprivation is having a negative effect on kids.

8. Twerk for the Homeless

After watching most of last night’s show, I’m convinced that Jay Z and Beyonce are just about the only parents who would let their young kid watch the Video Music Awards (I hit pause when my six year-old asked why all the dancers were in their underwear). Here’s a look at the top moments from the show.

+ Miley Cyrus provided the surprise of the evening when she sent up someone named Jesse to accept her award on “behalf of the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youths in the United States who are starving, lost and scared for their lives right now.”

+ Buzzfeed with a Giftastic look at the 27 most important things at the VMAs.

+ The night (like all others) was all about Beyonce. Listen in on her VMA performance, with her vocals isolated.

+ If nothing else, the VMAs provided a nice warm-up for The Emmys which are on tonight, a Monday and a weeknight in August, because the NFL is just too big to go up against. Here’s full pre-Emmy coverage from The Hollywood Reporter.

9. Suge Knight Rising

Before the VMAs started, the event was already making news as Suge Knight and three others were wounded by gunshots during a party hosted by Chris Brown. Amazingly, this was Suge Knight’s second time being shot at a pre-VMA party (the first time was at a Miami party hosted by Kanye West in 2005). Next year, he might want to think about going to the Tony’s instead.

10. The Bottom of the News

Don’t bleep it out. There are promising signs that swearing at work can actually be beneficial. Quartz with the complete guide to swearing at work.

+ A British guy has been sentenced to three years in prison for movie piracy.

+ The NYT takes an interesting and interactive look at the decline of the backhand, and the one player who could save it.

+ 33 facts everyone knows that are actually total lies.

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TIME NextDraft

Scientists Want to Build a Tomato That Grows 24/7 and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 22, 2014

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1. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Ten billion. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Providing nourishment to that many people could be a requirement by the end of the century. As The New Yorker’s Michael Specter explains, “sustaining that many people will require farmers to grow more food in the next seventy-five years than has been produced in all of human history … [and] nearly every arable patch of ground has been cultivated, and irrigation for agriculture already consumes seventy per cent of the Earth’s freshwater.” Those factors could turn the ongoing battle over genetically modified foods into an existential debate. Specter digs deep into the issue with a look at an activist’s controversial crusade against genetically modified crops: Seeds of Doubt.

+ Modern Farmer: Scientists try to build a tomato that grows 24 hours a day.

+ And for some lighter fare, McSweeney’s brings you the story of Hirl: “We provide meals that are completely unaffordable and unappealing to people who actually live in this neighborhood.”

2. Mad World

“The propagandists of the Islamic State must have imagined that their brutal video of the beheading of journalist James Foley would intimidate and terrorize the world. But people aren’t built that way, not in Muslim countries or anywhere else. When they see sadistic, uncivilized behavior, they are disgusted — and angry.” WaPo’s David Ignatius on the way the videotaped killing of James Foley could have been ISIS’ biggest tactical mistake.

+ The Daily Beast: ISIS should be careful what it wishes for.

+ Vox: The nine biggest myths about ISIS.

+ In Gaza, Hamas gunmen executed 18 alleged spies “including seven who were lined up behind a mosque with bags over their heads and shot in front of hundreds of people.”

3. Weekend Reads

“Jared Lorenzen and I are in love with the same woman. Her name is Little Debbie, and she makes delicious snack cakes.” ESPN’s Tommy Tomlinson on the NFL QB who shares a problem with millions of Americans. But in his case, his fat went viral.

+ Did the brutal dictator of Zimbabwe raise money from a Wall Street hedge fund to crush his opposition? From BloombergBusinessweek: The Hedge Fund and the Despot.

+ “Hi, if you are reading this then they killed me. I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed talking to you, you seem like a really great lady. I’m sorry we didn’t meet under different circumstances.” Michelle Lyons witnessed more than 278 executions. As Texas Monthly reports, that took a toll: The Witness.

+ And if you missed it earlier in the week, there’s been a lot of buzz about Michael Finkel’s piece in GQ: The Strange and Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit.

4. Brazilian Whack

Is that you? he asks. It is, but nobody was supposed to know. He’s showing me one of my posts to Secret, the popular anonymous sharing app that lets you confess your darkest secrets to your friends without anyone knowing it’s you.” Wired’s Kevin Poulsen explains why your anonymous posts to Secret aren’t anonymous after all. Maybe next time you’ll have the guts to have someone else say it to my face.

+ Apple has removed the Secret App from its Brazilian store because the Brazilian constitution prohibits anonymous freedom of expression.

+ ReCode: Secret users have started hosting Secret dinner parties, and they are brutal.

5. Push the Pedal to the Settle

Earlier this week, Bank of America was hit with a $17 billion settlement for financial fraud leading up to and during the financial crisis. That’s big. But it’s just their latest. BofA has chocked up nearly $70 billion in penalties. And it’s not over. Just take a look at this remarkable chart.

6. The App Trap

Question: In a typical month, how many apps are downloaded by most smartphone users? Answer according to Quartz. Most smartphone users download zero apps per month. But a small percentage of users download a ton of them.

+ The 25 most popular apps in America.

+ And I’m pretty sure this is related news: These are the 23 most viral cats of all time.

7. Strike the Pose

I just got done with my morning workout. I twisted my torso to enable my hand to grab my wallet, pulled it out, swiped my credit card, and returned the items to my back pocket. Then I did two more sets of that exercise before lunch. It turns out my exercise regimen isn’t all that atypical. Sports apparel sports sales are dramatically outpacing sports participation. The WSJ on the Yoga Poseurs. (Don’t feel bad, Yoga is all about posing.)

+ The legendary yogi B.K.S. Iyengar died at the age of 95. The Atlantic looks back at his amazing life and contortions.

8. Dress for Excess

In a bid to recruit top talent, The White House has reportedly given up on their demand that coders dress like adults. One top coder explained that “he isn’t showing up in a T-shirt, but he’s free to wear a wrinkled button-down and comfortable pants.” (If pants were required of Bay Area coders, there might not even be an Internet.)

9. TV’s Longest Running Gag

Grantland’s James Andrew Miller takes stock of SNL’s marathon man, Lorne Michaels: “Since 1975, of the close to 700 live episodes with his name on them, Michaels has missed exactly zero.”

10. The Bottom of the News

Attention ridiculous parents: The creator of the Your Baby Can Read program has “reached a deal to settle charges that he and his company made baseless pronouncements about the effectiveness of the program and that they misrepresented scientific studies to prove these bogus statements.” The program has pulled in more than $185 million over the years. Dr. Robert Titzer is required to pay $300,000 in penalties. Your baby can’t read, but they can certainly count well enough to figure out who came out ahead in that deal.

+ A photographic look at Meghalaya: The wettest place on Earth. (Don’t feel bad Seattle. You still have the Seahawks and Grunge.)

+ Deep fried tequila shots anyone?

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TIME NextDraft

Everyone Is a News Editor Now and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 21, 2014

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1. Awaiting Your Edits

The Ferguson story is big in part because it touches upon so many topics central to American discourse: Race, poverty, freedom of the press, law and order, the right of assembly, the militarization of police departments, leadership, justice, etc. But it’s also big because of what I call media momentum; the way social and mainstream media can feed off one another to make a story explode into our collective consciousness. Consider this stat: There were more than a million tweets about Ferguson before CNN gave the topic primetime coverage. From that point, the story dominated headlines. I like to think of myself as the Internet’s managing editor. But in truth, that title belongs to all of us. This story started small. People decided it was big. And the combined attention from the mainstream press and the Internet-enabled general public made it even bigger. From Pew, here’s a closer look at how the story grew and how we’ve become the new editors. Let’s just hope we’re the right people for the job.

+ What happens when a newsworthy story becomes a media spectacle? Here’s one journalist explaining why he left Ferguson.

+ And Matt Pearce, who has been covering the story for the LA Times and on Twitter takes us inside what has become a strange headquarters for news dissemination: “Amid the clouds of tear gas and hurtling bottle rockets that have turned this stretch of strip malls into a scene of mayhem through much of the past week, the one image rising above the turbulence has been the golden arches of the McDonald’s.”

2. Checks and Balances

Would James Foley be alive today if he was from Europe? Many Europeans countries pay millions in ransoms. The White House doesn’t. In Foreign Policy, James Traub on the agonizing question raised by these situations: Should states pay ransom to kidnappers?

+ Slate: Why the U.S. made a deal for Bowe Bergdahl but not James Foley.

+ Earlier this summer, the U.S. secretly attempted to rescue James Foley.

+ The hunt for Foley’s killer.

+ Buzzfeed: Photographers we’ve lost in conflict zones and their work

3. Free to Hug it Out

“Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family.” The two health workers who contracted Ebola in West Africa walked out of an Atlanta hospital today after doctors confirmed they have recovered and are not contagious.

4. Ready for Duty?

“Do you believe in an ‘eye for an eye’? What do your parents do for a living? Do you watch CSI? Dateline? Read Perez Hilton? Have you ever undergone a medical procedure that required an anesthetic?” Those are just a few of the questions you might be asked when you’re being considered for jury duty. The NYT with the latest questions jury selection experts are asking, and a quiz to see if you’d be selected.

+ New Republic: Convicting Darren Wilson will be basically impossible.

5. The Lady is a Champ

Picture the typical gamer. I bet the image that comes to mind is not an adult woman. But females now make up nearly half of all gamers, and “women over 18-years-old now represent a significantly larger portion of the U.S. game-playing population than boys under 18.”

6. Deuces Wild

Welcome to Twinsburg, Ohio; home of the annual Twins Days festival, and a dream research opportunity for scientists looking to gather genetic data. From one researcher: “They’re very aware that what they are is genetically interesting and the fact that people want to study that is something that resonates with them.”

+ Maria Konnikova in The New Yorker: Is there a gene that makes you need less sleep? (There definitely is if you have a baby named Gene.)

7. Burning Man(sion)

Nick Bilton in the NYT: “If you have never been to Burning Man, your perception is likely this: a white-hot desert filled with 50,000 stoned, half-naked hippies doing sun salutations while techno music thumps through the air. A few years ago, this assumption would have been mostly correct. But now things are a little different.” To identify the difference, just follow the money. The new millionaires and billionaires are spending big and threatening to turn Burning Man into dusty Internet conference, instead of letting it be what it is intended to be: A place to experience art, drugs, and the non-gender specific naked hugging of strangers that lasts a little too long but then is mysteriously forgotten a few hours later.

8. Thriller Whales

“I specifically remember Tilikum lying on the bottom of the neighboring pool masturbating. I’m right next door vacuuming the pool and watching him through a gate, humping the bottom of pool and climaxing. That stuff’s everywhere.” Three former SeaWorld employees on their unrivaled access to the animals — and the challenges of captivity. (I’m just glad my kids wanted a cat, not a whale.)

+ Slate: The strange, disturbing world of Koko the gorilla and Kanzi the bonobo.

9. Ice Breakers

“There are firmly established rules preventing the use of public office, such as our ambassadors, for private gain, no matter how worthy a cause.” And with that cable, U.S. lawmakers and diplomats were given the harsh news that they are not allowed to participate in the ice bucket challenge. Politicians can even throw cold water on cold water.

10. The Bottom of the News

You know how you’re never really paying attention during conference calls? Well, here’s a little secret. Neither is anyone else.

+ Hollywood wants to make you cry. But that’s harder than it used to be.

+ NYT: Breakfast might be overrated. (Then at least it properly sets your expectations for the rest of the day.)

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TIME NextDraft

The Most Dangerous Place to Be a Journalist and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 20, 2014

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1. The World is Appalled

President Obama spoke following an official confirmation that the video of the beheading of an American journalist was authentic: “Today the entire world is appalled at the brutal murder of James Foley by the terrorist group ISIL.” Foley was a photojournalist from New Hampshire who was kidnapped two years ago while covering the war in Syria. Obama also said that groups like ISIL have “no place in the 21st century.” Unfortunately, they won’t leave willingly. James Foley risked his life bringing us important stories. His death is a reminder that one of the era’s most defining stories — the broad struggle between extremists and moderates — is far from over.

+ James Foley: “It’s part of the problem with these conflicts … We’re not close enough to it. And if reporters, if we don’t try to get really close to what these guys … are experiencing, we don’t understand the world.” The Atlantic: James Foley and the last journalists in Syria.

+ In May, Vanity Fair’s James Harkin wrote about the most dangerous place in the world for journalists (more than 60 have been killed in Syria) and followed the trail of two of his colleagues, including James Foley: Evaporated.

+ We are appalled today. People in Iraq and Syria have been appalled for quite a while. From Reuters: “When Islamic State militants stormed into a northern Iraqi village and ordered everyone to convert to Islam or die only one person refused.” That’s when the killing started.

2. Show and Tell?

The beheading of James Foley brings up a complex set of choices for editors and those who manage social media networks. How much graphic content is too much? As you might imagine, different publications had different answers. Meanwhile, Twitter began suspending users who shared images of Foley’s beheading.

3. Ferguson or Bust

I don’t remember a time when my Twitter stream was as totally locked in on a single topic as long as its been locked in on Ferguson. Apparently, a lot of people want to see (and take part) in the story firsthand. From MoJo: From Anarchists To Tibetan Monks, here are some of the outsiders joining protests in Ferguson.

+ “Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero.” The Economist with a “reminder that civilians — innocent or guilty — are far more likely to be shot by police in America than in any other rich country.”

+ German journalist Ansgar Graw on his arrest in Ferguson: “I’ve been in several conflict zones: I was in the civil war regions in Georgia, the Gaza strip, illegally visited the Kaliningrad region when travel to the Soviet Union was still strictly prohibited for westerners, I’ve been in Iraq, Vietnam and in China, I’ve met Cuba dissidents. But to be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police? For that I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America.”

4. Surrounded

In Liberia, an entire neighborhood called West Point has been surrounded by barbed-wire barricades in an attempt to control the spread of Ebola. From the NYT: “Soldiers repelled the surging crowd with live rounds, driving hundreds of young men back into the neighborhood, a slum of tens of thousands in Monrovia.”

+ James Surowiecki on Ebolanomics: “The lack of an Ebola treatment is disturbing. But, given the way drug development is funded, it’s also predictable.”

5. Way Offline

“He said he had no address, no vehicle, did not file a tax return, and did not receive mail. He said he lived in the woods.” Christopher Thomas Knight spent three decades living in the woods in Central Maine, only occasionally crossing the border into society to steal from the locals. (Just think of how much great television this guy can now binge-watch?) GQ’s: Michael Finkel on the strange and curious tale of the last true hermit.

6. It’s Not Synching In

According to recent research, people who read material on a Kindle are “significantly” worse at recalling key plot points than their paperback-reading counterparts. Now I just need a paperback with backlighting and a way to increase the font size.

7. Decade of Dominance

It’s been ten years since Google went public. And so far, things seem to be going pretty well for the company. Quartz’s Dan Frommer charts the company’s amazing growth since its IPO.

+ WSJ: Google’s IPO, 10 years later: Just 10 stocks beat it.

+ James Temple: Google’s 10 zaniest projects in the 10 years since the IPO.

8. It’s Mourning in America

“I awoke incredibly puffy and sad. I started crying almost immediately when I found out … I’m still incredibly sad. You can probably hear the choke in my voice. But I’ve decided I’m going to mourn for one week and then celebrate him without sadness, as I’m sure he would not have wanted that.” Are those the words of a close friend of Robin Williams? No. They’re the words of a fan. NY Mag’s Tim Murphy on those who grieve for dead celebrities.

+ “Public mourning is there in order to allow private mourning to express itself.” New Republic’s Meghan O’Rourke: Twitter Grief is Real Grief. (Though, one hopes real grief is at least a few characters longer…)

9. Ice on the Cake

The ice bucket challenge is working. The ALS Association has raised more than $22 million since the viral project’s kick-off. Vox’s Julia Belluz wonders if viral memes should be dictating our charitable giving.

+ Wired: How long would it take the whole world to do the ice bucket challenge? (By that time, due to climate change, we’d be pouring room temperature water over our heads.)

10. The Bottom of the News

Enough with all the bad news. This will cheer you up. A four year-old reviews The French Laundry.

+ If you want to wake up in the city that never sleeps, you better head somewhere other than NYC. According to data collected by Jawbone, people who live there go to bed at a perfectly reasonable hour.

+ NPR: If You’re Born In The Sky, What’s Your Nationality?

+ Want a successful marriage? Have a big wedding.

+ Slate: What makes people look like their pets?

+ The NFL wants Super Bowl halftime performers to have to pay for the right to perform. (And given which acts they’re considering, that actually makes a lot of sense.)

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TIME NextDraft

Meet The Hitchhiking Canadian Robot and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 19, 2014

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1. Meet the Neighbors

Want to live longer? Go meet your neighbors. Recent research introduced by psychologists at the University of Michigan found that people who know and trust their neighbors are much less likely to have heart attacks. Like many studies, this one is more about correlation than causation, so it’s difficult to say for sure whether bonding with the neighbors is really worth the risk. As we learned last week, a lot of people couldn’t pick their neighbors out of a police lineup. (How many of us would be surprised to see them there?)

+ If interacting with other humans isn’t your thing, you could always exchange some pleasantries with hitchBot. The Canadian robot hitchhiked 4,000 miles “to explore the boundaries of human-technological interaction.”

2. Driving Miss Lazy

In a move that will watched closely by Google and Amazon, Uber is testing Corner Store, a new pilot program that will let users order staple items for same day delivery. I have a feeling that someday we’ll point to the rise of the same day delivery services as a key factor in the decline of personal health. (Of course, by that time, Uber will be delivering medicine too.)

3. The Gray Area

It’s been more than a week since Michael Brown was shot “at least six times,” and the often shocking scenes from the streets of Ferguson show few signs of improving. From molotov cocktails, to tear gas, to arrests and shootings, Buzzfeed has the latest from Ferguson.

+ The numbers in Pew’s report on the sharp black-white divide on perceptions of Ferguson are pretty amazing. Only 44 percent of whites say that that the Brown shooting raises racial issues.

+ “Your circle will necessarily close tighter because the trust you once, if ever, you had in the system and their agents are forever changed. Your lives are forever changed.” Trayvon Martin’s Mom sends an open letter to Michael Brown’s family.

+ Ezra Klein has an interesting take on why Obama won’t give the Ferguson speech his supporters want.

+ Vox: Half of black men in the US have been arrested by age 23.

+ Three Georgia teens have developed an app that is like Yelp for cops.

4. Giving Back

Peace in the Middle East is as elusive as … peace in the Middle East. These days, we’d settle for a ceasefire. The latest one was interrupted by a barrage of rocket fire from Hamas, followed by Israeli airstrikes. Following the exchange, the Israeli negotiators walked out of the latest talks.

+ From The NYT: “In 1943, Henk Zanoli took a dangerous train trip, slipping past Nazi guards and checkpoints to smuggle a Jewish boy from Amsterdam to the Dutch village of Eemnes. There, the Zanoli family, already under suspicion for resisting the Nazi occupation, hid the boy in their home for two years. The boy would be the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.” Zanoli received a medal from Israel for being one of the righteous non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Last week, he gave the medal back.

5. Pipe Teams

Connectivity is everything. And being the brand that provides that connectivity to the most people would put any company in an enviable position. But what about the consumers on the other end of those broadband pipes? Adrianne Jeffries of The Verge wonders: What happens when the most unpopular company in the US merges with the runner-up?

6. The Cost of Kids

If you are a middle-income family with a new baby in the house, congratulations. That kid will cost you about a quarter of a million dollars in child-rearing expenses over the next 18 years. (I expect my kids to contribute at least ten times that in start-up equity.)

+ Quartz: Why more restaurants are banning kids. If you don’t already know the answer to that, my kids and I would love to take you out to dinner some time.

+ Every kid knows the “I’m gonna take your ear” gag, right? Wrong.

7. You Don’t Know Joe

Many of us wake up in the morning and make our first cup of coffee “with the mindless precision of a machine.” FastCo tries to explain how you got hooked on coffee. It’s all part of their deep dive into Coffee Week. From Pumpkin Spice Lattes to foamy artistry, grab a mug and come on in.

8. The Bucket Gist

I just dumped a bucket of boiling lard over my head. Someone had to up the ante as the ice-bucket challenge sends shivers across social media. NY Mag examines why the ice-bucket challenge went viral. You know it’s only a matter of time before we starting seeing headlines about the Great Ice Shortage of 2014.

9. Dave Remembers Robin

David Letterman shared a fond remembrance of Robin Williams during last night’s Late Show. Letterman’s reaction after seeing Williams perform for the first time: “They’re gonna have to put an end to show business because what can happen after this?”

+ Don Pardo has died at the age of 96. You probably know the name. You definitely know the voice. And, for comedians, having him say your name was a really big deal.

10. The Bottom of the News

We judge books by covers. And we definitely judge television shows by their opening title design. Here’s a look at this years Emmy nominations for main title design (and the winner).

+ What’s really the best way to brush your teeth? Hint: It probably doesn’t matter.

+ WSJ takes a look at the real reason we yawn.

+ A Little League coach delivered a nice speech to his team after they lost a big game.

+ Not having a good day at work? Consider Brendan Walsh. He just got done scuba diving in shit.

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TIME NextDraft

The Crisis in Ferguson and Other Fascinating News on the Web

August 15, 2014

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1. Management 101

After nearly a week of public pressure, the Ferguson Police Department finally released the name of the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown. And for the first time, they also released a report indicating that Brown was being sought in connection with a robbery at a local convenience store. (They later mentioned that the robbery was totally unrelated to the initial contact between the officer and Brown.) Long story short, tensions have not been eased.

+ As wildly mishandled as it was, nothing that was said during today’s press conference would have been enough because it took so long to share the information. Here’s The Wire’s David Simon with an open letter to the Ferguson police chief: “The decision of a police agency to hide the identities of its officers behind a veil of secrecy, while asking the public at large to risk all in open court, is not mere hypocrisy. It is cowardice.”

+ While no one was satisfied with the delayed details shared by police, the scene surrounding that dissatisfaction has changed dramatically over the past couple of days. And that could be in large part because crowd control in Ferguson was under new management. What a difference a day made. Take a look at this before and after shot of Crowd Management 101.

+ MoJo: Exactly how often do police shoot unarmed Black men?

+ That time Ferguson police beat an innocent suspect and then charged him with getting blood on their uniforms.

+ The protest sign that says it all.

2. Shall We Play a (Mind) Game?

“Smile in a certain way, and she knows precisely what your smile means. Develop a nervous tic or tension in an eye, and she instantly picks up on it. She listens to what you say, processes every word, works out the meaning of your pitch, your tone, your posture, everything.” She’s a computer. And it turns out that some people feel more comfortable answering personal questions when they come from an avatar instead of a shrink. From The Economist: The computer will see you now.

+ Quartz: Still think robots can’t do your job? This video may change your mind.

3. Weekend Reads

“The dancers and photographer who inspired one of the biggest pop culture touchstones of a generation have gone most of their lives unable to publicly talk about the credit they think they deserve.” From Buzzfeed’s Soraya Roberts: The Untold Story Of The 31-Year Battle Over Flashdance. (Finally, a good excuse to break out my old one-shouldered sweatshirt.)

+ “I am a bottom feeder. I specialize in finding paper that everyone else thinks is worthless.” From the NYT Magazine: Inside the dark, labyrinth, and extremely lucrative world of consumer debt collection: Paper Boys.

+ “For conservative Indians like my parents, ‘falling in love’ is an American illness, a condition to avoid as one avoids warts or gonorrhea. But I need Daddy to confess that he felt something for Mummy when he married her.” From Longreads, Falling: Love and Marriage in a Conservative Indian Family.

+ Dan O’Sullivan: The story of pro wrestling in the twentieth century is the story of American capitalism. (No wonder my bank account feels like someone has been hitting it over the head with a folding metal chair…)

4. The Mod Squad

“For decades, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been to support ‘moderates.’ The problem is that there are actually very few of them.” In WaPo, Fareed Zakaria describes the fantasy of Middle Eastern moderates. They are an endangered population in many countries around the world.

5. Love and Shareage

You know those oversharing Facebook couples that constantly announce their love to the world? Well, a small study suggests that they really are happy. (I think we all know that true love can only be found in a retweet.)

6. We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bowl

Starting with the documentary Blackfish, SeaWorld has been under increasing pressure from critics of their treatment of whales. Now that the criticism is having a material affect on the botton line, SeaWorld has announced plans to double the size of the orca fish bowl (which sadly still leaves it a bit smaller than the ocean).

+ Narratively: How the creator of Jaws became the shark’s greatest defender.

7. An Elite Club

These days there are fewer gnomes, dragons and pirates at the most competitive courses. But don’t let that deter you from attempting to turn mini golf into your career. The NYT on mini golf’s first winner of the triple crown.

8. The Caffeination Clock

Let scientists tell you the ideal time of day to get the most bang out of your coffee. (All day seems to work pretty well…)

9. Kiss it Goodbye

It was foggy. It was windy. And it was basically a toilet. But it was our toilet, and in a weird way, we’ll miss it. San Francisco kisses Candlestick goodbye. Fittingly, the stadium’s final night featured colder than usual weather and that old familiar traffic nightmare.

10. The Bottom of the News

Walk at the same pace as those around you. Do not make an effort to use overly big words. And of course, make sure you’ve read your latest edition of NextDraft. These are just a few tips on how to look smart.

+ Last night in Carmel, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold for $38 million. And most experts were surprised it sold that cheap.

+ A startup CEO offers 1,284 slides in the most insane PowerPoint ever. (With a little editing, he could have gotten the same message across with like eleven hundred slides…)

+ Is Jake Johnson the best drunk actor of our time?

+ This season on Downton Abbey, the Crawleys are faced with the mystery of the plastic water bottle. (The bottle is pretty interesting, so they’ll probably kill it.)

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