Weekly Link Roundup

Free People Silk Bow Barrette

▪ Before I impulsively cut off a good 6 inches of hair in late fall, I had bought a number of these pretty Silk Bow Barrettes from Free People to wear on days when a simple ponytail felt lifeless on its own. I just noticed that new colors have been made available online in this style; at $18 each, it’s not exactly cheap, but it’s difficult to find hair accessories of comparable quality for less.

▪ The greatest 20-second video ever (has sound): Kid crying and dancing on stage (YouTube)

▪ “QVC’s Plan to Survive Amazon Might Actually Be Working” (Bloomberg): “QVC hasn’t been immune to the ongoing struggles in retail and television. It had four straight quarters of sales declines before posting an increase last quarter. Sales in some categories, such as hair care and jewelry, have continued to struggle … But QVC isn’t just another channel trying to adapt to the rise of cord-cutting or a retail brand looking for a toehold online. About half of QVC sales already happen online, and two-thirds of those purchases come from mobile devices. In January, after completing a $2.1 billion purchase of its rival, the Home Shopping Network, QVC Group became the third largest e-commerce retailer in North America … That means the combined cable channels trail only Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. among companies selling products in multiple categories. The executives running a channel whose name stands for Quality, Value, Convenience believe their business can survive because it does something that Amazon can’t: ‘You’re not going to be inspired by Amazon … Shopping should be joyful. It should be inspirational. That’s what we can do.’

▪ “Who’s Going to Buy the International Space Station?” (Wired): “President Trump’s new budget request … directs NASA to leave behind the International Space Station and explore the moon as a first step toward reaching Mars … Advocates of a mission to Mars note that NASA is spending too much on keeping the ISS in orbit, and that it dilutes the mission of the space agency in terms of human space exploration. By putting an endpoint on US government involvement in the station, they argue, its new chapter can begin … Of course, there are two big problems with the above scenario. One, Congress likes the space station and has resisted calls to abandon it … Two, the ISS is actually a UN-style partnership. It was built and operated with help from Russia, Europe, Canada, and Japan, all of whom use the station to train their own astronauts, conduct biomedical research, and test new technology. Even though NASA has paid the lion’s share of the ISS costs over the past 20 years, those countries all pitched in money, astronauts, and rocket time—and it doesn’t appear that anyone at the White House or NASA asked them about this new privatization plan … So until both the foreign partners and Congress become convinced, the idea of a private space station will likely remain just that.

▪ “Inside the Home ofInstant Pot, theKitchen Gadget ThatSpawned a Religion” (The New York Times): “The Instant Pot is hardly the fanciest appliance on the market; several models sell for under $100. But it has upended the home-cooking industry. During this year’s Black Friday sales, the Instant Pot was among the Top 5 items sold by Amazon and Target, and among the Top 3 best-sellers at Kohl’s … In 2010, after several months of sluggish sales in and around Ontario, Mr. Wang listed the Instant Pot on Amazon, where a community of food writers eventually took notice … Sensing viral potential, Instant Pot sent test units to about 200 influential chefs, cooking instructors and food bloggers. Reviews and recipes appeared online, and sales began to climb.

▪ (Video Link) Sam’s Rescue Farm for Government Workers | January 31, 2018 Act 3 | Full Frontal on TBS (YouTube)

▪ “American Democracy Is an Easy Target” (Foreign Policy): “Russian influence operations are real, but they are neither as Machiavellian nor as successful in changing people’s minds as they first appear …  punishing Russia is mostly irrelevant to the underlying problem. If a semi-incompetent social media campaign is all that one needs to send American politics into a halting state, then America’s troubles are far more fundamental than Russian interference.

▪ “Weber, Testino, and the Problem at the Heart Of Fashion” (The Cut): “Suddenly, fashion photography seems stale. But not just stale — also cruel … The formula for a fashion shoot seemed to hinge on pinpointing taboos, then pushing right up to their limit and often beyond. If the fantasies depicted didn’t trigger a little flicker of absurdity or distaste, the images didn’t seem to be doing their job.

▪ “The Man Who Saw Inside Himself” (The Atlantic): “Larry is using his own body, and his ongoing struggle with Crohn’s, as an experiment. He keeps precise measures of his body’s input … and output … He undergoes periodic MRIs, has his blood and stool analyzed frequently, submits to annual colonoscopies, and has had his DNA sequenced. Among the things Calit2 does with all these data is create a stunning, regularly updated three-dimensional image of his insides … As a result, he arguably knows more about his own inner workings than anyone else ever has. His goal, as he puts it, is for each of us to become ‘the CEO of our own body.’

▪ “What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn” (The New York Times): “Porn education is such new territory that no one knows the best practices, what material should be included and where to teach it … The most recent sex-education guidelines from the World Health Organization’s European office note that educators should include discussions about the influence of pornography on sexuality starting with late elementary school and through high school. The guidelines don’t, however, provide specific ideas on how to have those conversations.

▪ “Why Paper Jams Persist” (The New Yorker): “Engineers tend to work in narrow subspecialties, but solving a jam requires knowledge of physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, computer programming, and interface design … There are many loose ends in high-tech life. Like unbreachable blister packs or awkward sticky tape, paper jams suggest that imperfection will persist, despite our best efforts. They’re also a quintessential modern problem—a trivial consequence of an otherwise efficient technology that’s been made monumentally annoying by the scale on which that technology has been adopted. Every year, printers get faster, smarter, and cheaper. All the same, jams endure.

▪ “A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue” (The Atlantic): “Most political stances can be understood in terms of an equilibrium. For instance, some people might believe that access to abortion in a conservative state is too restricted under the status quo, and favor relaxing the rules regulating abortion clinics. That is, they might favor shifting the equilibrium in a ‘pro-choice’ direction. But ask those same voters, ‘Should there be any limits on legal abortion’ and they might declare that the procedure should be banned in the last trimester of pregnancy unless the mother’s health is threatened. Insofar as the abortion debate is framed around the equilibrium, they will align with the pro-choice movement; but insofar as it is framed around limits, they will align with the pro-life movement.  On abortion and scores of other political issues, there are people who tend to focus on equilibriums, other people who tend to focus on limits, and still others who vary in their focus. A single question put to the public cannot reveal the majority position of the polity on such issues, because there are at least two different majority coalitions: One forms around the position that a majority holds on the best equilibrium; the other forms around the position a majority holds on the appropriate limit. The winning coalition turns in part on what frame is more prominent at any particular moment.

▪ (Has sound) Bloomberg created a game: “The American Mall Game: A 2018 Retail Challenge” (Bloomberg)

▪ (Video Link) The New Witches of Salem: Feminist, Empowered and Anti-Trump | NBC Left Field (YouTube)

▪ “The Elusive American Black Truffle” (The Wall Street Journal): “Three decades after farmers first cultivated truffles in the U.S., no one has had long-term success growing them commercially. Those in the business estimate that only around 25 orchards in the U.S. are producing any volume of Périgord truffles today … Traditionally these delicacies were only found in the wild. Today, the white truffle continues to elude cultivation. However, outside of the black Périgord’s native France, producers in Spain and Australia have succeeded in growing large volumes of the truffles also known as black diamonds … Aspiring U.S. truffle farmers have faced steep hurdles … Many blame the lack of large American volume on the challenges presented by indigenous pests, natural fungi competitors and diseases.

▪ “There’s a Matchmaking Site for Gorillas, Too” (The New Yorker): “The dating site for gorillas is now a key to survival of a species officially considered to be critically endangered. Over the past two decades, between sixty and seventy per cent of western lowland gorillas have been wiped out. The Ebola epidemic is estimated to have killed about a third of the population—tens of thousands—in the wild … Despite anti-poaching laws, thousands of gorillas are killed each year, even in protected reserves and national parks, because of limited resources for enforcement. Expanded logging and oil-palm plantations have increasingly destroyed their natural habitats.

▪ “He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse” (Buzzfeed): “Ovadya cautions that fast-developing tools powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality tech could be hijacked and used by bad actors to imitate humans and wage an information war.  And we’re closer than one might think to a potential ‘Infocalypse.’ Already available tools for audio and video manipulation have begun to look like a potential fake news Manhattan Project. In the murky corners of the internet, people have begun using machine learning algorithms and open-source software to easily create pornographic videos that realistically superimpose the faces of celebrities — or anyone for that matter — on the adult actors’ bodies. At institutions like Stanford, technologists have built programs that that combine and mix recorded video footage with real-time face tracking to manipulate video.

▪ “Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook—and the World” (Wired): “The stories varied, but most people told the same basic tale: of a company, and a CEO, whose techno-optimism has been crushed as they’ve learned the myriad ways their platform can be used for ill … It appears that Facebook did not, however, carefully think through the implications of becoming the dominant force in the news industry. Everyone in management cared about quality and accuracy, and they had set up rules, for example, to eliminate pornography and protect copyright. But Facebook hired few journalists and spent little time discussing the big questions that bedevil the media industry. What is fair? What is a fact? How do you signal the difference between news, analysis, satire, and opinion? Facebook has long seemed to think it has immunity from those debates because it is just a technology company—one that has built a ‘platform for all ideas’ … because of the company’s self-image, as well as its fear of regulation, Facebook tried never to favor one kind of news content over another. But neutrality is a choice in itself.

▪ “How to Survive Being Swallowed by Another Animal” (The Atlantic): “There are many stories of animals that have successfully broken out of a predator’s digestive tract … These fantastic voyages are mostly accidents, but some animals seem to benefit from being eaten … swallowed animals can sometimes turn the tables on their swallowers in truly dramatic fashion. Gil Wizen and Avital Gasith found one such example by studying Epomis beetles. These insects eat frogs, and nothing else. When a frog lashes out with its tongue, an Epomis larva will dodge. It then grabs its attacker’s face with a pair of hooked jaws, and slowly eats the poor frog alive. Over 400 such standoffs, Wizen and Gasith saw that the beetle always won. In one case, a toad actually
managed to snag an Epomis larva and swallow it. Two hours later, it regurgitated the beetle, which then turned around and ate the animal that had just eaten it.

▪ Recently purchased: ASOS Embellished Mix Lace Paneled Tulle Mini Dress, Madewell Studio Ruffle Hem Top, H&M Jumpsuit, Ann Taylor Flounce Sleeve Sweater, Bibliophilia: 100 Literary Postcards, and What Do You Meme? Adult Party Game.

Have a great week, everyone!

Hi, I am Elle!

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