Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Link Dump 2015: Grab Your Helmet

As someone who uses his cell phone nearly every hour of every day, my mobile browser sometimes gets bloated with open tabs from things I've read. So, in an effort to cull those tabs, I am dumping some of my favorite recent reads for you to enjoy.

Alcohol

Craft beer is exploding in the U.S., and here's a story about one of its largest microbreweries:

"There's this big blob of young people now turning legal drinking age over the past four or five years and I don't think any of them even grew up thinking about tasting a Budweiser," he says. "It's just like all these 15-year-olds who have never not had a smartphone. These things are becoming native now to the next generation, and that's something for the big brewers to be afraid of."

Across the pond, we learn about a French style beer:

Medical journals of the period also suggested that visitors to the Strasbourg area seek out Bière de Mars (as well as still-familiar names like 'bock-bier' and 'Lambick'), for both health and leisure purposes, while many travel guides also supported this notion. Biere de Mars even developed its own lore, garnering an association with Napoleon that seems to have come about via a bit of (fancy) folk etymology—classically-educated British visitors asserted, often in jest, that 'mars' referred to the god of war and that the beer fueled the army before battles, while the direct (and less romantic) French-to-English translation of 'March' was overlooked.

If you can ignore the throwback web design, there's a nice (and short) little history lesson tucked in here about American beer production:

Lagers produced by these breweries, were not the weak and mild lagers now associated with modern American mega-breweries. These "pilseners" were a significantly stronger beer, both in flavor and alcohol, designed to meet the appetites of the various central European immigrants working the coal mines.

Art

Pop Music is commercial, should we be surprised?:

Millions of Swifties and KatyCats—as well as Beliebers, Barbz, and Selenators, and the Rihanna Navy—would be stunned by the revelation that a handful of people, a crazily high percentage of them middle-aged Scandinavian men, write most of America’s pop hits. It is an open yet closely guarded secret, protected jealously by the labels and the performers themselves, whose identities are as carefully constructed as their songs and dances. The illusion of creative control is maintained by the fig leaf of a songwriting credit. The performer’s name will often appear in the list of songwriters, even if his or her contribution is negligible. (There’s a saying for this in the music industry: “Change a word, get a third.”) But almost no pop celebrities write their own hits. Too much is on the line for that, and being a global celebrity is a full-time job. It would be like Will Smith writing the next Independence Day.

Just a good bit of fun:

It’s pretty much a very short parody of Watchmen with news paper comic characters instead of superheroes. Somewhat inspired by Bartkira, I made this sampling of pages both as a joke and to see what it would look like if newspaper characters got the same dark treatment superheroes did in the 80s. There was no copy/pasting in any of these pages, I redrew them by looking intimately at my copy of Watchmen and pictures of each character I was using.

The Soviet Union did not allow western consumer products behind the iron curtain, but that doesn't mean they couldn't indulge in their own versions:

Well, to put it simply: it means no Pac-Man. It means no fantasies. It means presenting work as physical labor, promoting Communist patriotism, and glorifying habits of mind that were appropriate to Marxist thinking. Fantasy and role-playing games featuring treasure-hunting, princesses, and invented creatures had no home in the USSR.

A famous New York City restaurant which was adorned with drawings by many famous artists is no more, and the artwork has been painted over:

Artists hand-sketched the cartoons in exchange for meals throughout the years. Many worked at nearby King Features Syndicate, a comic company. The famed walls were restored in 1995. Today, Palm restaurants worldwide are run by direct descendants of the founding owners. It was impossible, they said in a statement, to take the original artwork with them. Environment

If we can't even tackle the pollution that causes climate upheaval, how are we ever going to address light pollution? Let's pretend:

In polluted cities around the world, it’s a struggle to see the stars in our night skies. And it’s that struggle that The World at Night’s 6th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest tries to highlight, showing us images of how the world would look if we controlled light pollution.

Corporations have a vested interest in profiting from pollution:

Despite its efforts for nearly two decades to raise doubts about the science of climate change, newly discovered company documents show that as early as 1977, Exxon research scientists warned company executives that carbon dioxide was increasing in the atmosphere and that the burning of fossil fuels was to blame.

A humorous piece about Britain's business-first mentality at the expense of our environment:

Bearing this in mind, I finally find myself reluctantly agreeing with the business community. There is no time for delay. Let’s build the runway. Let’s choke the Earth. Let’s get this damn thing over with, for what can be avoided, whose end is purposed by the mighty gods of business? Hasten our demise, let our children be the last of their sorry line, and spare their unborn descendants any further suffering. We will not save the rhino. We will not even save the hedgehog. How can we save the world?

This is ancient news in terms of the Internet, but still a good read about how damaging K-Cups are to our world:

But critics warn that the packaging needed for these systems comes with environmental and health-related costs. By making each pod so individualized, and so easy to dispose of, you must also exponentially increase the packaging—packaging that ultimately ends up in landfills. (And that's to say nothing of the plastic and metal brewing systems, which if broken, aren't that easy to recycle either.)

The Times had an article last year about water rights, especially relevant this year as things have only gotten worse (the Colorado River has been at risk for decades now, glad we still haven't addressed it yet):

Residents of the arid West have always scrapped over water. But years of persistent drought are now intensifying those struggles, and the explosive growth — and thirst — of Western cities and suburbs is raising their stakes to an entirely new level.

The destruction of our planet is a bummer, to say the least; good thing I don't have any kids to leave behind to inherit this mess:

"It's just too late for it," he says. "Perhaps if we'd gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don't have time. All these standard green things, like sustainable development, I think these are just words that mean nothing. I get an awful lot of people coming to me saying you can't say that, because it gives us nothing to do. I say on the contrary, it gives us an immense amount to do. Just not the kinds of things you want to do."

Miscellaneous

Reappropriation of America's fastest passenger ship:

In its heyday, the SS United States was renowned for its luxury as well as its functionality. It is the largest non-military ship ever built in the United States and could travel at speeds of about 40 knots, nearly twice as fast as cruise ships today. On its first trip across the Atlantic, it traveled so fast some of its paint was blown off.

Pho is bloody delicious:

Pho refers to the noodles -- flat, long rice noodles -- not the soup itself, although it is commonly associated with the dish as a unit. The two main types of soup are pho bo, which is made with beef broth, and pho ga, made with chicken broth. If you ask for just pho in Vietnam, it'll commonly be understood as Pho Bo. A hearty dish, pho is often eaten for breakfast, usually outside of the house at market stands or stalls.

To quote the great George Michael, sex is natural, sex is fun:

In a bad mood? You need to get laid. Have a terrible headache? An orgasm would solve that. Feeling bad about yourself? You need someone to f*ck you.

A fellow who used to work as a tour guide at a Southern Plantation explains just how ignorant some of his guests were regarding slavery:

For most guests, this is the most emotionally meaningful moment of the tour. I showed the young mother some of the slaves' names and pointed out which people were related to each other. The mom stiffened up, raised her chin, and asked pinchedly, "Did the slaves here appreciate the care they got from their mistress?"

White collar crime is treated as a joke, but I'm tired of being the punchline:

The primary difference between the deaths that occur in the “workworld” vs. the “underworld” is simply the perspective our society – which is tilted towards the worldview of the rich – gives them. A poor mugger killing you after a fight over your wallet is considered a grave crime, whereas a worker being killed because their employer didn't spend the money necessary to give them proper safety is considered routine.

I remember a TV news magazine episode about Indian call centers, and a woman who worked there was demonstrating how she mastered many American accents, including Brooklyn and Southern. Every accent she did was heavily twinged with her native accent. It was a mess:

Every month, thousands of Indians leave their Himalayan tribes and coastal fishing towns to seek work in business process outsourcing, which includes customer service, sales, and anything else foreign corporations hire Indians to do. The competition is fierce. No one keeps a reliable count, but each year there are possibly millions of applicants vying for BPO positions. A good many of them are bright recent college grads, but their knowledge of econometrics and Soviet history won't help them in interviews. Instead, they pore over flashcards and accent tapes, intoning the shibboleths of English pronunciation—"wherever" and "pleasure" and "socialization"—that recruiters use to distinguish the employable candidates from those still suffering from MTI, or "mother tongue influence."

Politics

A state politician is apparently unstable, tweeting some bizarre, macho threats:

"Not smart to come up and harass somebody in a parking lot who's caryring a handgun. Better be glad you decided to walk away. #armed&ready"

Kim Davis dominated the news like no one else (except Donald Trump) by refusing to do the job she was elected to do because she feels that homosexuality is not only a sin, but a sin she has to be proactive in fighting against:

This is a tough position and her only real choice in line with her religious beliefs is to resign her position so as not to violate those beliefs - even though it was a good paying job she inherited from her mother and plans to pass on to her son. But Davis doesn't want to give her job! Who does? She wants a job enforcing the public laws. But there's a public law she doesn't want to enforce, which means she really can't do the job without violating her religious beliefs. But she doesn't have the courage of her convictions that would allow her to quit her job. It's a classic case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. So she wants to be able to keep her job but just not do part of it, sacrifice for her religious beliefs but also hold on to the job. This is never what religious liberty has meant in any context ever.

President Obama has been on a roll during his "lame duck" term, and the Iran Deal is quite the accomplishment:

As the Senate came back into session, but before the C-SPAN microphones were on, Reid approached Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on the Senate floor and told him Democrats had the votes to block the disapproval resolution. When aides asked Reid later if that was really the case, the Nevadan just shrugged.

Regarding the internal collapse of the Republican Party, sanity was the first victim:

One need look no further than the Republican presidential race to understand Boehner’s lack of appeal to extreme conservatives. In the latest GOP polls, Donald Trump and Ben Carson stand in first and second place, respectively. Trump and Carson are exactly the kind of leaders that Tea Party conservatives love: they lack government experience, they have a poor grasp of the issues, they take absurdly extreme policy positions and they make crudely offensive and deeply divisive statements on a routine basis. In the age of Trump and Carson, Boehner’s days were numbered.

A mayor of a city in Texas is obsessed with Sharia Law:

Van Duyne first made headlines for challenging Islam in February, when she wrote a Facebook post vowing to look into a "Shariah law court" that was said to have been set up by an Irving mosque. "While I am working to better understand how this 'court' will function and whom will be subject to its decisions, please know that if it is determined that there are violations of basic rights occurring, I will not stand idle and will fight with every fiber of my being against this action," she wrote.

But the "Shariah law court" wasn't actually headquartered in Irving, which abuts Dallas, nor did it have anything to do with the Islamic Center of Irving. A note on the homepage of Dallas' Islamic Tribunal, which settle civil disputes between Muslims for a fee, aimed to disambiguate the two.

Unrestrained capitalism lets us bleed:

In America we have this myth that if you deserve it, you will have it. We’re afraid to look at our downtrodden because it undercuts that myth. There is a fear of the poor that is uniquely American. It’s especially hard to look at someone who could be one of their kids – someone like me who’s white and intelligent – and see them as poor. When the crash happened, there was a panic among the rich because suddenly wealth wasn’t only to do with how hard you’d worked. It could be taken away! They got really fearful. So much of Americans’ self-image is based on what we own and how we present ourselves.

Unrestrained capitalism lets us bleed, redux:

Today’s low-wage workers are also more educated, with 41 percent having at least some college, up from 29 percent in 2000. “Minimum-wage and low-wage workers are older and more educated than 10 or 20 years ago, yet they’re making wages below where they were 10 or 20 years ago after inflation,” said Mr. Schmitt, senior economist at the research center. “If you look back several decades, workers near the minimum wage were more likely to be teenagers — that’s the stereotype people had. It’s definitely not accurate anymore.”

The gun culture is so entrenched in this country, and the gun lobby so powerful, that any meaningful legislation is but a dream at this point; however, this is not only a feasible idea, but workable:

Gun insurance would work very much like car insurance. You would need it to buy a gun, and the policy would have to include liability coverage in case that gun injures someone. If a gun owner has no accidents, his premiums go down. Someone who wants to "open carry" his weapon would pay more than someone who keeps it locked at home. Assault weapons would be more expensive to insure than hunting rifles because they they have a greater capacity to do harm. But it wouldn't be government making these decisions, which would be unconstitutional - it would be insurance companies, competing with one another to keep premiums reasonable.

Although the Confederate flag issue has fizzled out and no longer makes the headlines, we still had some great comments about society and race:

“And we struggle with it. We try to ignore it. We pretend, with the election of Barack Obama, that we’re in some post-racial society,” he continued. “And what we have seen is a kind of reaction to this. The birther movement, of which Donald Trump is one of the authors of, is another politer way of saying the N word. It’s just more sophisticated and a little bit more clever. He’s ‘other,’ he’s different.”

If a black person tried to open carry, he would be shot (a few African Americans have been shot by police over carrying a TOY gun):

Kylie Morris of Channel 4 in Britain visited Ferguson on Tuesday and tried to explain to the British people why white “Oath Keepers” were allowed to openly carry firearms on the street while peaceful black protesters were arrested.

Yeah, I'm partisan:

There are other bits of crankery here and there that are driven by base politics, but in the end, the versions of conservative crankery that really matter nearly always come down to pandering to the rich at all costs—or, at the very least, doing nothing to offend them. Whatever else you can say about the Republican Party, it knows who's in charge and it always has. This is starting to create some seismic faults that are likely to cause them a lot of angst in the near future, but for now, it's the wealthy uber alles.

As a reminder, Dick Cheney is a subhuman:

These guys wreck the economy, and then complain that Obama hasn't fixed it fast enough. They blow a hole in the deficit, and then complain that Obama hasn't quite filled it yet. They pursue a disastrous war in Iraq, and then complain that Obama ruined it all by not leaving a few more brigades behind. They twiddle their thumbs over Iran, and then complain that Obama's nuclear deal isn't quite to their liking.

Money in politics is an absolute joke, where even millionaires are brushed aside so candidates can pander to billionaires:

The most interesting question amid the wreckage of Walker's campaign may now be this: Where will his wealthy backers go with their money? In July, the super-PAC supporting Walker, Unintimidated PAC, reported having locked up more than $20 million, placing him in the top echelon of GOP candidates in terms of financial backing. The bulk of the money, $13.4 million, came from just four people, including Wisconsin-based roofing supply magnate Diane Hendricks, a longtime supporter who gave $5 million.

Yes, I read Talking Points Memo quite a bit:

Latimer continued to work for the company after its 1892 merger into General Electric, and all told spent nearly half of his 80 years working as part of Edison’s laboratories and corporation—and more than half a century helping pioneer some of our most significant national technologies. Yet it is Bell whom we remember for the telephone and Edison for the electric light bulb—and while those men certainly deserve a place in our collective narratives of those technologies and of American invention more generally, those narratives are quite simply incomplete without a far more prominent place for the contributions of [African American] Lewis Latimer (among many others) as well.

Republicans can spew whatever crazy shit they want and then say, "We're not racist, we have a black guy and a few Hispanics running for president, it's fine":

That the party responsible for the Southern strategy, the racist populism of the Reagan era, and the current age of voter suppression can count a black neurosurgeon among its most popular Presidential candidate is in itself a form of vaccination against charges of racism. It means one thing when a white billionaire taps into whites’ anxieties about cultural and economic displacement, and something else entirely when a black man from Detroit validates their conspiratorial fears about the Affordable Care Act. Or when, in an oblivious echo of the Dred Scott decision, an African-American states that entire segments of the population are irreconcilable with the Constitution.

Technology

Making money on the web seems to be an endless challenge for businesses born in the analog age, but even the digital born are finding it difficult as technology evolves:

In recent years, banner ads have been usurped by the “native ad,” sometimes called sponsored content. These often look like regular articles but are paid for by companies. Sometimes the sponsor’s logo is the only sign of their investment. Other times the entire post hints at the sponsor’s product—like this quiz about bathroom graffiti by Scrubbing Bubbles. These ads attract more attention than banners, so advertisers pay more for them. BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s research service, suggests that spending on native ads will reach $7.9 billion this year, up from $4.7 billion in 2013.

Social media, while fun to engage in, really puts our private lives in the hands of corporations to pour over and profit from:

But with as few as four publicly available geo-tagged data points, scientists can accurately connect 90 percent of people to their credit card transactions, according to research published in the journal Science on Friday. That data is supposed to be anonymous, but it’s not really, and women and high-income people have less anonymity than others.