Weekend Link Roundup

J. Crew Perfect Winter Parka (from this post)

▪ A friend let me know that the “Perfect Winter Parka” that I reviewed here has been restocked in a number of sizes online, and is now on sale. As I mentioned in the review, this coat, despite its name, is not warm enough for frigid New England winters, but should be sufficient for places with moderate winters.

▪ Some unexpected news came by email from J. Crew yesterday: Until May 1, 2018, shipping is free on all online orders with a J. Crew credit card. I have to say, in all the years that I’ve had J.Crew’s store card, this is easily the best extra perk afforded cardholders. I don’t know that this is enough reason to sign up for a card, but it’s certainly an incentive for one to keep the card.

▪ “Tackling the Internet’s Central Villain: The Advertising Business” (The New York Times): “Ads are the lifeblood of the internet, the source of funding for just about everything you read, watch and hear online … And for all its power, the digital ad business has long been under-regulated and under-policed, both by the companies that run it and by the world’s governments.

▪ “Customer Satisfaction at the Push of a Button” (The New Yorker): “By the standards of traditional market research, HappyOrNot’s analysis was simplistic in the extreme … As customers left a store, a small sign asked them to rate their experience by pressing one of the buttons (very happy, pretty happy, pretty unhappy, or very unhappy), and that was all … What HappyOrNot’s gas-station data lacked in substance, though, they made up for in volume. A perennial challenge in polling is gathering responses from enough people to support meaningful conclusions … HappyOrNot is satisfying because you can use it effortlessly and anonymously, without condemning yourself to a lifetime of targeted ads, and without adding still more monetizable information about yourself and your family to the world’s exponentially growing online hoard of permanently lost privacy.

▪ (Kind of long, but a worthwhile read) “The Plot Against America” (The Atlantic): “During the years that followed World War II, Washington’s most effective lobbyists transcended the transactional nature of their profession … Lobbying hardly carried a stigma, because there was so little of it. When the legendary lawyer Tommy Boggs registered himself as a lobbyist, in 1967, his name was only 64th on the active list. Businesses simply didn’t consider lobbying a necessity … This was the world that brash novices like Manafort and Stone quickly came to dominate … Whereas other firms had operated in specialized niches—lobbying, consulting, public relations—Black, Manafort and Stone bundled all those services under one roof, a deceptively simple move that would eventually help transform Washington … The linkage of lobbying to political consulting—the creation of what’s now known as a double-breasted operation—was the real breakthrough … One venture would run campaigns; the other would turn around and lobby the politicians whom their colleagues had helped elect … With this evolution of the profession, the effectiveness and influence of lobbying grew in tandem.

▪ “An ER visit, a $12,000 bill — And a Health Insurer That Wouldn’t Pay” (Vox): “In recent years, Anthem has begun denying coverage for emergency room visits that it deems ‘inappropriate’ because they aren’t, in the insurance plan’s view, true emergencies … The problem: These denials are made after patients visit the ER, sometimes based on the diagnosis after seeing a doctor, not on the symptoms that sent them … Anthem’s new policy mirrors similar recent developments in state Medicaid programs, which increasingly ask enrollees to pay a higher price for emergency room trips that the state determines to be non-urgent … All of these policies suggest a new and controversial strategy for reining in health care costs: asking patients to play a larger role in assessing their own medical condition — or pay a steep price.

▪ “The Cult Skin-Care Brand Whose Secret Ingredient Is Being Dirt Cheap” (The New Yorker): “The founder and C.E.O. of Deciem, Brandon Truaxe, was a computer programmer before he got into the beauty business. He came up with the idea for Deciem after working on software for a skin-care lab and noticing the drastic difference between the cost of raw ingredients and the price of finished products … Truaxe decided that if he developed the chemicals himself, in an in-house lab, and offered them in their purest, most isolated forms, he could cut out the middleman and offer the same products as other brands at drastically lower prices.

▪ “How Responsible are Killers with Brain Damage?” (Scientific American): “A recent study contains the first systematic review of 17 known cases where criminal behavior was preceded by the onset of a brain lesion … the researchers found that the lesions were widely distributed throughout different brain regions. However, all the lesions were part of the same functional network, located on different parts of a single circuit that normally allows neurons throughout the brain to cooperate with each other on specific cognitive tasks. In an era of increasing excitement about mapping the brain’s ‘connectome,’ this finding fits with our growing understanding of complex brain functions as residing not in discrete brain regions, but in densely connected networks of neurons spread throughout different parts of the brain … Interestingly, the ‘criminality-associated network’ identified by the researchers is closely related to networks previously linked with moral decision making.

▪ “A Family’s Race to Cure a Daughter’s Genetic Disease” (Wired): “As many as 30 percent of families who turn to genetic sequencing receive a diagnosis. But most rare diseases are new to science and medicine, and therefore largely untreatable. More than 250 small foundations are trying to fill this gap by sponsoring rare disease research. They’re funding scientists to make animals with the same genetic defects as their children so they can test potential cures. They’re getting patients’ genomes sequenced and sharing the results with
hackers, crowdsourcing analysis of their data from global geeks. They’re making bespoke cancer treatments and starting for-profit businesses to work on finding cures for the diseases that affect them.

▪ Take $50 off full-price orders of $100+ at LOFT with code SCORE. I recently ordered the following: Slim Tie Waist Pants, Sparrow Scarf, and Fuzzy Tie Back Sweater.

▪ “How a New Technology Is Changing the Lives of People Who Cannot Speak” (The Guardian): “There are surprisingly many ways for the power of speech to fail … In the US, more than 2 million people require digital ‘adaptive alternative communication’ (AAC) methods to help compensate for speech deficits. A 2008 study by the disability charity Scope estimated that 1% of people in Britain use or need AAC … Modern adaptive alternative communication often involves the type of device made famous by Stephen Hawking – a small computer or tablet that plays aloud words typed into it … Patel and her team to set up what they claim is the world’s first ‘voice bank’, an online platform where anyone with an internet connection can ‘donate’ their voice by recording themselves reading aloud on to the VocaliD Voicebank, which is programmed with stories crafted to capture all the phonemes in the English language … Each donation is catalogued in a library of voices that VocaliD can then use when crafting a new voice for a client.

▪ “Thousands of People In Kenya Are Getting Basic Income For 12 Years In an Experiment That Could Redefine Social Welfare Around the World” (Business Insider): “Recipients in the pilot village have enjoyed small lifestyle changes, which appear to have produced significant gains in psychological well-being. Interviews with nearly a dozen recipients revealed the extra money gives people a peace of mind they previously never knew … When an organization or governing body doles out free cash, it does so with the understanding that some percentage of people will spend the money on risky pursuits like gambling and recording music instead of basic needs. Advocates often claim this is an upside to basic income, since people can pursue creative projects instead of toiling away at a day job.  But destructive spending is rare, according to Caroline Teti, GiveDirectly’s field director in Kenya.

▪ “Pop Keeps Changing. And the Grammys Turn a Deaf Ear, Again.” (The New York Times): “The most vital shifts to come to the pop charts in recent years are the result of the rise of streaming, and how digital distribution and consumption have advanced hip-hop’s representation … But you would not know that had you watched the Grammys. None of these songs were featured, and none of these artists, apart from Cardi B, were granted a
performance slot. There are many root causes of this lack of representation: unsubtle racism and reverse ageism; a fundamental misreading of hip-hop’s power, reducing it to an accent piece when truly it is the main course; and presumably a fear that Grammy viewers would be more comfortable seeing Bono and Sting multiple times than any rapper
apart from Kendrick Lamar.

▪ “Facebook Really Wants You to Come Back” (Bloomberg): “Facebook, which has more than 2 billion people logging in monthly, has never failed to grow its user base. To beat investors’ expectations consistently on user numbers, it’s just as important for the company to retain people … as it is to recruit new members. People who are logging into Facebook less often—but aren’t fully disconnected—are noticing more and more frequent prompts to come back, sometimes multiple times a day, via emails or text messages reminding them what they’re missing out on … Even with regular users, Facebook has become thirstier for posts. The social network’s reminder boxes at the top of the news feed, which often show memories or anniversaries of friendship with close pals, have recently become real estate for more trivial milestones … But engagement may have been a concern for Zuckerberg before the announcement. While the company has said it sees positive trends, it hasn’t updated a statistic on how much time people spend on its properties since the first quarter of 2016. Minutes spent on the site in the U.S. are declining, according to measurements by both Nielsen and Comscore, even if the trend is healthy globally. In the third quarter, the growth in daily users was the slowest ever.

▪ “Is MoviePass Here to Stay?” (The Atlantic): “When MoviePass—the subscription-based company that allows its customers to see a film a day—announced it was dropping its monthly fee to $10, the biggest theater chain in the country objected … AMC’s initial panic seemed to be over MoviePass lowering the price point for theatergoers; if the service went away, would viewers be able to stomach paying full price for tickets again? But it appears the only thing more frightening to AMC than MoviePass’s failure is its success, as the company now has the ability to bargain with real strength … MoviePass’s bold display against AMC is an example of how its growing monopoly of subscribers can be used to ‘disrupt’ the industry. It’s just a question of how effective that disruption is.

▪ Recently purchased: Burberry Brogue and Fringe Detail Leather Crossbody Bag, BP Ruffle Cotton Eyelet Top, SUPERFOXX Floral Wrap Dress, Urban Decay Vice Lipstick, and Lovers + Friends Teddy Faux Fur Coat.

Have a great weekend!

Hi, I am Elle!

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