The End of Democracy in Poland →

July 14, 2020 · 13:03

Yascha Mounk:

Now that the government’s power is secured for another three years, the fear that the government will further undermine free speech and independent institutions is not a hostile assumption: it is a promise the government itself repeatedly made over the course of the campaign. The most immediate step will likely be to capture those remaining newspapers and television channels that are free to criticize the government. Since many of them are owed by companies based outside the country, the government has vowed to “re-Polonize the media.”

In the final step towards authoritarianism, Kelemen warns, the government is likely to start attacking the integrity of the electoral system itself. The opportunities to do so are many: Law and Justice could try to get the electoral commission under tight control, make it harder for Poles who live abroad to participate in democratic elections, and take away powers from big city mayors, who tend to belong to the opposition party.

[…] Yesterday’s elections, though no longer fair, were largely free. There is no guarantee that this will still be true when Law and Justice next has to face the electorate.

I seriously doubt that our next elections will be democratic.

Lovers in Auschwitz, Reunited 72 Years Later — He Had One Question →

May 16, 2020 · 17:00

By Keren Blankfeld, for The New York Times:

For a few months, they managed to be each other’s escape, but they knew these visits wouldn’t last. Around them, death was everywhere. Still, the lovers planned a life together, a future outside of Auschwitz. They knew they would be separated, but they had a plan, after the fighting was done, to reunite.

It took them 72 years.

I might have teared up a bit.

Epic Apple Debugging Story →

December 2, 2019 · 22:27

Cameron Esfahani on Twitter:

My first full time job at Apple was working on QuickDraw. The team was very small: the manager and one other engineer. Right before I started, Apple shipped the first PPC Macs. The QD team had done a lot of work for that so they took long, deserved, multi week vacations.

Read the whole thread.

(It would be so much better if these kinds of stories were posted to blogs, not Twitter.)

Girl, 16, Kills Herself After Instagram Poll to Decide Between Life or Death →

May 16, 2019 · 12:05

Sky News:

District police chief Aidil Bolhassan said 69% of respondents at the time of her death had selected “D”. However, Instagram maintains that the poll ended after 24 hours with 88% of her followers choosing “L”.

Anything less than 100% for “L” is completely unacceptable. I cannot fathom how horrible a person you have to be, to even consider voting “D”, let alone actually doing it.

Aeroflot Passenger Oleg Molchanov Describes His Escape From the Burning Jet at Sheremetyevo →

May 8, 2019 · 16:45

Pavel Merzlikin, writing for Meduza:

On May 5, a Sukhoi Superjet 100 owned by the Russian airline Aeroflot caught fire at Sheremetyevo airport. The airplane, which was bound for Murmansk, made an emergency landing at its departure point soon after takeoff. 41 people died in the fire out of the 78 people onboard the flight. Meduza spoke with 35-year-old Murmansk entrepreneur Oleg Molchanov, who survived the fire along with his wife.

via @buzuk

Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace →

May 7, 2019 · 11:51

Brad Plumer, for The New York Times:

Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

We behave like a virus, destroying everything in our path. Just watch Our Planet on Netflix and see for yourself.

The Secret Lives of Facebook Moderators in America →

March 1, 2019 · 10:41

Casey Newton, for The Verge:

The panic attacks started after Chloe watched a man die.

She spent the past three and a half weeks in training, trying to harden herself against the daily onslaught of disturbing posts: the hate speech, the violent attacks, the graphic pornography. In a few more days, she will become a full-time Facebook content moderator, or what the company she works for, a professional services vendor named Cognizant, opaquely calls a “process executive.”

For this portion of her education, Chloe will have to moderate a Facebook post in front of her fellow trainees. When it’s her turn, she walks to the front of the room, where a monitor displays a video that has been posted to the world’s largest social network. None of the trainees have seen it before, Chloe included. She presses play.

The video depicts a man being murdered. Someone is stabbing him, dozens of times, while he screams and begs for his life. Chloe’s job is to tell the room whether this post should be removed. She knows that section 13 of the Facebook community standards prohibits videos that depict the murder of one or more people. When Chloe explains this to the class, she hears her voice shaking.

The health consequences resulting from this job must be horrifying, both mental and physical.

Comparing Speed Limits to Gun Control →

February 5, 2019 · 15:04

Katrin Bennhold, for The New York Times:

As far as quasi-religious national obsessions go for large portions of a country’s population, the German aversion to speed limits on the autobahn is up there with gun control in America and whaling in Japan.

How can any sane person compare driving fast to the killing of innocent whales and other human beings?

The World’s Oldest Esports Team Is Gaming Their Way to Longer Lives →

January 9, 2019 · 14:21

Samantha Bresnahan, for CNN:

The video game “Counter-Strike” plays out on their monitors as they communicate over headsets, engaged in a fierce competition at Moscow’s IgroMir Expo, Russia’s largest computer and video game convention.

But this is not your average group of gamers. The slogan on their black jackets reads “We’ve got time to kill.”

With an average age of 67, the Silver Snipers from Stockholm, Sweden, are the oldest esports team in the world.

Amazing team and I’d wager they’re much better than I am!

Shirley Wang’s Dad’s Friendship With Charles Barkley →

December 15, 2018 · 22:16

Shirley Wang:

When Charles Barkley’s mother, Charcey Glenn, passed away in June 2015, Barkley’s hometown of Leeds, Alabama, came to the funeral to pay respects. But there was also an unexpected guest.

Barkley’s friends couldn’t quite place him. He wasn’t a basketball player, he wasn’t a sports figure, and he wasn’t from Barkley’s hometown. Here’s what I can tell you about him: He wore striped, red polo shirts tucked into khaki shorts and got really excited about two-for-one deals. He was a commuter. He worked as a cat litter scientist in Muscatine, Iowa. In short, he was everyone’s suburban dad. More specifically, he was my dad.

“You know, it was obviously a very difficult time,” Barkley told me recently. “And the next thing I know, he shows up. Everybody’s like, ‘Who’s the Asian dude over there?’ I just started laughing. I said, ‘That’s my boy, Lin.’ They’re, like, ‘How do you know him?’ I said, ‘It’s a long story.’ “

Amazing story. Get a tissue ready. And #fuckCancer.

Andrzej Bargiel Completes the First Descent of K2 on Skis →

August 2, 2018 · 10:01

Josh Sampiero:

How many first descents are left in the world? Deep in the Himalayas, probably quite a few, but not a single one taunted and teased ski mountaineers like K2. Just 200m shorter than Mt Everest, and a lot more dangerous, it was one of the few well-known peaks still un-skied from the summit. Until July 22, 2018 that is, when Polish ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel clicked into his bindings at an altitude of 8,611m and jump-turned, side-slipped and skied his way down to glory.

Balls of steel.

P.S. Watch the video clips on the linked article’s page.

Employee Abused Sexually in Apple Retail Store →

June 27, 2018 · 11:18

Reddit user clumsygirllovescats writes:

For 3 years I worked in an Apple retail store in almost every role they had […]

I was so scared for my safety that I quit. My close friend said that they refused to even acknowledge my existence as if I had never worked there.

If true, this is horrifying.

Teen Hackers Snatched the Keys to Microsoft’s Videogame Empire →

June 25, 2018 · 11:20

Brendan Koerner, for Wired:

Pokora had long been aware that his misdeeds had angered some powerful interests, and not just within the gaming industry; in the course of seeking out all things Xbox, he and his associates had wormed into American military networks too. But in those early hours after his arrest, Pokora had no clue just how much legal wrath he’d brought upon his head: For eight months he’d been under sealed indictment for conspiring to steal as much as $1 billion worth of intellectual property, and federal prosecutors were intent on making him the first foreign hacker to be convicted for the theft of American trade secrets. Several of his friends and colleagues would end up being pulled into the vortex of trouble he’d helped create; one would become an informant, one would become a fugitive, and one would end up dead.

It’s amazing how fast someone’s judgement can become skewed the wrong way.

The Trouble With Johnny Depp →

June 25, 2018 · 11:15

Stephen Rodrick, for Rolling Stone:

Multimillion-dollar lawsuits, a haze of booze and hash, a marriage gone very wrong and a lifestyle he can’t afford – inside the trials of Johnny Depp.

This is a profoundly sad story, but one part did make me laugh:

Depp says the fight is for his children, Jack and Lily-Rose, a Chanel model.

“My son had to hear about how his old man lost all his money from kids at school, that’s not right,” says Depp. He rubs his eyes with his tobacco-stained hands. He says one of the proudest moments of his life was when Jack said he’d started a band and Depp asked what they were called.

“The kid says ‘Clown Boner.'” Depp smiles proudly. “We don’t need a paternity test. That’s my kid.”

The Earth Is Flat Because YouTube Videos Say It Is →

June 12, 2018 · 11:10

Alan Burdick, for The New York Times:

If you are only just waking up to the twenty-first century, you should know that, according to a growing number of people, much of what you’ve been taught about our planet is a lie: Earth really is flat. We know this because dozens, if not hundreds, of YouTube videos describe the coverup […]

The modern case for a flat Earth derives largely from “Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe,” a book published, in 1865, by a smooth-talking English inventor and religious fundamentalist named Samuel Rowbotham. I found a copy at a bookseller’s table in the corridor just outside the conference ballroom, alongside books about the Revelations and New Testament apocrypha. The vender, a friendly woman who looked to be in her late sixties, offered her thoughts on Earth’s flatness and the enshrouding secrecy; I moved on when she got to “the Jews.”

John Gruber comments:

[…] before the internet, kooks were forced to exist on the fringe. There’ve always been flat-earther-types denying science and John Birch Society political fringers, but they had no means to amplify their message or bond into large movements.

Thom Holwerda had a few words to say too:

The internet is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, but it’s also having dark, unsettling effects on our society that we need to address. I don’t have any solutions, but we better start doing a better job of arming ourselves against the constant barrage of attacks on science, or we risk our society descending into chaos.

I have been thinking about this issue over the past few days and have begun to imagine how quickly we could wake up in a world where these sort of ideas are the new norm and round-Earthers become the group of people who are considered “kooks”, to use Gruber’s words. Politics are a great example of how quickly a certain point of view can take over the minds of a country or continent and we don’t have to look far — these are all things that are happening today in multiple countries around the world. I love the internet but I can’t help but wonder if humans, as a species growing up in many contrasting environments, won’t be able to handle our cultural and psychological differences.

Witold Pilecki — the Man Who Volunteered for Auschwitz →

April 27, 2018 · 13:34

Marina Amaral, on her blog:

Witold Pilecki was a reserve officer in the Polish Army born 13 May 1901 in Olonets, Russia. During World War II while attached to a Polish resistance group, he volunteered for an operation that saw him intentionally imprisoned in Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz death camp in order to gather intelligence on the site’s operations. As early as 1941, Pilecki’s reports informed the Western Allies of the atrocities being committed at the death camp. Before escaping Auschwitz, Pilecki organized a resistance movement right under the noses of the camp’s Nazi German overseers, kapos and administrative staff.

Why You’ve Never Heard of the Six Chinese Men Who Survived the Titanic →

April 21, 2018 · 10:55

Amy B Wang, writing for The Washington Post:

Hundreds of passengers fled in lifeboats. Hundreds more perished, going down with the ship or freezing to death in the icy water. The only one of Titanic’s lifeboats to turn back to the wreckage found body after body — until it discovered a young Chinese man, still alive, clinging to a piece of wood.

That man would be one of six Chinese passengers who survived the Titanic, a little-known fact about the historic disaster that has largely remained untold or distorted, owing to a racially hostile environment toward Chinese people in the West at the turn of the 20th century.

Fascinating read.

What It’s Like To See 100 Million Colors →

April 10, 2018 · 15:03

Alexa Tsoulis-Reay, for New York magazine:

Tetrachromats can see colors that most people cannot — up to 100 million, estimates suggest, which is 100 times that of the average human. Most people have three cells, or receptors, in their retinas, but tetrachomats have a fourth receptor, which may be what allows for their heightened color perception. They are usually female, and it’s estimated that about 12 percent of women carry the gene for this fourth receptor. Carrying the gene doesn’t guarantee that you’ll wind up with heightened color vision, but those who both have the gene and who are immersed in a wide range of colors from a very young age appear to be more likely to develop the ability. Researchers are still in the very early stages in their understanding of this condition, so there aren’t any hard numbers on how often it manifests itself.

This article about Concetta Antico is not only fascinating, it is also extremely inspiring. What I found most amazing, is how well Concetta describes the colours that she is able to see — it must be fascinating to see everything around us the way she can. My first thought was that I am blind in comparison to her — just read her description of the colour of grass:

Let’s take mowed grass. Someone who doesn’t have this genetic variation might see bright green, maybe lights or darks in it. I see pinks, reds, oranges, gold in the blades and the tips, and gray-blues and violets and dark greens, browns and emeralds and viridians, limes and many more colors — hundreds of other colors in grass. It’s fascinating and mesmerizing.

She can also tell when someone is sick by just looking at the colour(s) of their skin.

Colour: From Hexcodes to Eyeballs →

April 10, 2018 · 14:50

Jamie Wong, on his Zero Wind blog:

Why do we perceive background-color: #9B51E0 as this particular purple?

This is one of those questions where I thought I’d known the answer for a long time, but as I inspected my understanding, I realized there were pretty significant gaps.

Through an exploration of electromagnetic radiation, optical biology, colorimetry, and display hardware, I hope to start filling in some of these gaps. If you want to skip ahead, here’s the lay of the land we’ll be covering […]

This is a fantastic and informative journey through light and colour — I found myself nodding along to the things I knew and being surprised by the rest. Do set aside at least 15 minutes to get through the whole piece without interruptions.

(via @khron)

Dictionary-Makers Found the First Known Use of “Mansplain” →

March 27, 2018 · 00:22

Thu-Huong Ha, for Quartz:

The team of lexicographers charged with adding new words to the historical dictionary recorded the first documented use of “mansplain” in August 2008. In an exchange between two bloggers on Livejournal, electricwitch, a then-22-year-old fan of Bowie and Bollywood based in the Netherlands, accused count-vronsky, who has since deactivated their account, of mansplaining.

I think I first heard this term on Twitter, quite recently, probably near the end of 2017. A guy — naturally — was being an ass towards a woman. He continued being even more of an ass, when someone accused him of “mansplaining”.

80 Percent of Mass Shooters Showed No Interest in Video Games →

March 13, 2018 · 12:25

Anna Werner:

President Trump met with video game industry representatives Thursday, after saying last month violent video games may play a role in mass shootings. The president met with parents like Melissa Henson.

“The kind of messages and images that they are putting in their minds, I think they’re nightly dress rehearsals for huge acts of violence,” she said.

But psychologist Patrick Markey’s research shows 80 percent of mass shooters did not show an interest in violent video games.

Personally, I have never been inclined to go kill someone because of a game, despite playing Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake, CS:GO, PUBG, and various other FPS shoot-em-ups since I was a kid, but I’m sure this potentially could be dangerous for a handful of people. Then again, people who have trouble understanding right from wrong probably don’t need a computer game to get triggered into doing something bad.


August 20, 2016 · 21:38

Rachel Nabors, after being deported from the UK:

I didn’t volunteer for this. I didn’t have a choice. I was told what to do, where to go, and had my belongings and ability to communicate taken from me.

This made the top two worst experiences of my life, and you don’t want to know what the other one was.

My husband and I were planning a 2017 trip to Scotland to see his mother’s birthplace. It is canceled. I will not go back to the United Kingdom. People from the UK can come see me when I speak in continental Europe, where I’m wanted.

I will not risk a third worst experience of my life.

This is so surreal, that it could as well be fiction. I can not imagine myself in her shoes — it must have been horrible beyond comprehension.

Misplaced iPad Takes Its Own Vacation →

May 13, 2016 · 22:48

Nick Wingfield for the New York Times:

Last month, Shelby Bonnie’s iPad vanished from his carry-on bag somewhere at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a red-eye flight from San Francisco. He figured he would never see it again.
But sometimes our devices aren’t ready to say goodbye.

The ending is priceless.

Serenity Caldwell Left Her iPad Pro at a Rest Stop →

April 20, 2016 · 13:29

Serenity Caldwell:

After a fun weekend down in DC with Providence Roller Derby playing two incredibly hard-fought games against the roller derby teams from Washington DC and Cleveland, OH, I spent most of the car ride home excited to get back to writing about the iPad Pro and its 9.7-inch sibling; I even pulled out the 12.9-inch model to do some note-taking during the drive.

And then, in a late-night haze during our last rest stop of the evening, I did the unthinkable: I left the Pro on a Subway counter. I didn’t realize I had done so until this morning, when I went to gather my things to go to a local coffee shop to write — only to realize that my iPad wasn’t among them.

I’ve never had this happen to me yet, but I can imagine the sinking feeling you get in your stomach. Lots of good tips and warnings in the article too.

Corruption on Iceland →

April 4, 2016 · 06:23

Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer:

The interrogation room in which Iceland’s recent history was rewritten is sparse, furnished only with a table, some chairs, and a computer. A camera is fixed to the wall, and the frosted, double-glazed windows have completely blocked out the sound of the gale-force winds in Reykjavik’s Faxafloi Bay.

It was in this room that some of Iceland’s most powerful bankers, executives, and investors had to answer to special investigator Olaf Hauksson. A tall man with a heavy build, Haukkson has spent the past six years investigating the transactions that brought Iceland’s economy to its knees in October 2008.

At the time, the country’s three biggest banks folded within just three days, in part because their senior executives had illegally doctored the stock listings of their own banks. “Market manipulation”, as Hauksson curtly calls it.

When asked what happened to the three bank bosses in the end, Hauksson grins. “They all went to jail,” he says, pointing to the empty chairs. “They sat right there.”

Olafur Hauksson has only just begun to wrap up proceedings for the biggest scandal in Iceland’s history. And it’s entirely possible that the publication of the Panama Papers will trigger the next one (…)

Iceland is in for another storm, it seems.

People flying into Reykjavík in early 2016 land in a country still healing from the last crisis. The fault lines of the financial earthquake that hit the country in the fall of 2008 ran deep. For several months, Iceland found itself at the center of the global financial crisis. At the time, three of Iceland’s largest banks – Landsbanki, Kaupthing, and Glitnir – collapsed almost simultaneously under the weight of their foreign debts.

The Panama Papers leak is astounding, although not shocking. And the journalists analysing them actually kept everything under wraps.

P.S. This particular story concerns Iceland’s Kaupthing bank among others, which always reminds me of this series of brilliant ads with John Cleese.

Nintendo Employee ‘Terminated’ After Smear Campaign Over Censorship →

March 31, 2016 · 11:58

Patrick Klepek:

We don’t know the full details of what happened, or what the conversations were like between Rapp and Nintendo. It’s possible that Nintendo truly was uncomfortable with Rapp’s college essay (despite it being publicly linked on her Linkedin page) or old Tweets about similar topics and decided to part ways with her.

But we do know this: Nintendo was publicly silent while one of their employees was harassed and smeared online over something she did not do. That’s a fact. It’s not in dispute. Nintendo watched Rapp become the center of a witch hunt and did nothing publicly to defend her. Despite my requests for comment, the company said nothing. As it turns out, maybe that silence said everything.

This sort of harassment is unacceptable and quite frankly I cannot imagine why something isn’t being done about this. Nintendo’s actions are not particularly chivalrous either — they should have defended one of their own.