Weekly Link Roundup: October 9, 2020

Chips Ahoy!® McFlurry®: Few things are better than the OREO® McFlurry® imo, but the Chips Ahoy McFlurry stacks up well. And it’s “free” now if you order the J Balvin meal using the McDonald’s app

McDonald’s New J Balvin Meal Is Fine — But a Big Mac With No Pickles? Makes No Sense. (Chicago Tribune): “McDonald’s announced … celebrity meal partnership with reggaeton superstar J Balvin … the meal itself … [is] a bit of a chaotic neutral. Unlike the Travis Scott meal, there are hardly any changes or specifications to the food, other than the exception of no pickles, which is just bizarre. And where is the drink? Let’s talk about the pickles: The choice to forgo them is hard to understand. Texturally, they’re a must, and their flavor profile is in line with the special sauce. Removing them won’t make a Big Mac not taste like pickles. Without them, the burger felt a little soft, a little too plushy — it needed more crunch.”

The Untraveled High Road of Humility, and a President Laid Low (The New York Times): “By definition, the nature of leading a diverse and complex nation is in large part a gamble … There is only so much even the most powerful chief executive in the world can control … generally, the better bet is to acknowledge the limits of your authority and remind your constituents that no one person alone can fix it … Be humble, in other words, or try to fake it … In a sense, Mr. Trump has mastered the first feint of the powerful: No matter how much uncertainty swirls around you or doubt resides within, if you can sell yourself as being bulletproof, even against the potent ammunition of reason, then surely you must be … This can get you extremely far in life, and leave no room for humility … Pandemics can’t be governed, much less spun. They can trample upon so many best-laid plans and projections, upend an economy, a campaign, possibly a Supreme Court nomination. A pandemic can utterly shred even the most determined pose of defiance and denial.”

Heartbreaker (Toronto Life): “Lovers make the easiest marks. In the dating world, there is no consumer protection agency, no regulatory body or task force looking out for earnest seekers of love. That leaves the romantics … to fend for themselves. They’re led not by reason and logic but by the belief that somewhere out there is the person who’ll make their life shinier and easier, happier and complete. We all want to believe we’re too smart to fall for a con. But our propensity to believe in something, or someone, rests far more on our state of mind than some predisposition … In the U.S. in 2019, some 25,000 people reported being the victim of online romance scams, with losses estimated at more than $200 million (U.S.). In Canada in that same year, 760 Canadians lost $22.5 million to romance scammers … In both countries, according to the FBI, romance scams now constitute the highest-loss form of consumer fraud … Rootenberg wasn’t running your average romance scam—a cash grab performed from a safe distance. Not only did Rootenberg meet his victims in person, he worked his way into their hearts, homes and beds.”

Japan’s Lost Generation Is Still Jobless and Living With Their Parents (Bloomberg): “Faced with limited job prospects, many ended up single and childless. Japan’s 2015 census revealed there were 3.4 million people in their 40s and 50s who had not married and lived with their parents … Among those in their early 40s, as many as one in three said they had become shut-ins because they had trouble finding or settling into a job after finishing school.”

Apps Will Get You Paid Early, for a Price (The New York Times): “… these services, which millions have downloaded, come with question marks. Some customers have sued, regulators across the country are looking into their practices, and consumer advocates fear that the apps are glossy packaging for the kind of lending that can leave users stuck in an expensive cycle of debt … The apps generally come in two flavors. Some, like Earnin and Dave, are open to the public and can require access to your transaction history or work time sheets. Earnin may even use your phone’s GPS to check work attendance. Others, like PayActiv, DailyPay and Rain, are offered through employers as a workplace benefit … Last year, workers tapped their paychecks through workplace providers an estimated 37 million times, gaining access to more than $6 billion, or nearly double the amount in 2018 … And DailyPay said the number of users who tapped money for coronavirus-related reasons had increased 400 percent during the early months of the pandemic … In recent months, hundreds of companies — including Kroger, Wayfair, Dollar Tree, Staffmark, HCA Healthcare and Mercy Hospitals — have begun offering the apps to employees.”

Hundreds of new styles were added to J. Crew’s sale section this week and they are an extra 50% off with code SALETIME until 10/11/2020. Note that some sales are final. Shipping is free on all orders for Rewards members (membership is free). My picks:

Meet the Customer Service Reps for Disney and Airbnb Who Have to Pay to Talk to You (ProPublica): “Arise Virtual Solutions … has helped some of America’s best-known businesses shed labor costs … Arise lines up customer service agents who work from home. It then sells this network of agents to blue-chip corporations … Arise’s workers … are independent contractors. To get gigs, they first absorb substantial expense, paying for their own equipment and training, and then have fees deducted from every paycheck for the ‘use’ of Arise’s ‘platform’ … The work-from-home customer service business, in which an estimated 500,000 Americans worked even before the pandemic, is booming.”

“Don Jr. Thinks Trump Is Acting Crazy”: The President’s COVID Joyride Has the Family Divided (Vanity Fair): “There is a long history in the Trump family of denying serious illness. According to a Trump family friend, Trump’s father, Fred Trump Sr., insisted on working even after his Alzheimer’s disease advanced in the 1990s. ‘To retire is to expire!’ Fred Sr. would say. The friend said that as Fred Sr.’s disease worsened––he once came down the stairs wearing three neckties––the family created a system so that Fred could think he was still running the Trump Organization. Every day Fred Sr. would go to the office in Brooklyn and they would give him blank papers to sort through and sign. The phone on Fred’s desk was set up so that it could only dial out to his secretary.”

‘The Coal Industry Is Back,’ Trump Proclaimed. It Wasn’t. (The New York Times): “Since Mr. Trump was inaugurated, 145 coal-burning units at 75 power plants have been idled, eliminating 15 percent of the nation’s coal-generated capacity, enough to power about 30 million homes. That is the fastest decline in coal-fuel capacity in any single presidential term, far greater than the rate during either of President Barack Obama’s terms. An additional 73 power plants have announced their intention to close additional coal-burning units this decade … An estimated 20 percent of the power generated in the United States this year is expected to come from coal, down from 31 percent in 2017 … Far from bringing back jobs, the downturn has translated into 5,300 coal mining jobs, or nearly 10 percent, being eliminated since Mr. Trump took office. Nationwide, 12,000 jobs were lost at fossil-fuel burning power plants in the United States in the first three years of Mr. Trump’s term … Coal’s accelerating decline has produced one of the Trump era’s most counterintuitive outcomes: Air pollution in the United States related to power production has declined rapidly despite the administration’s aggressive rollback of environmental regulations … Coal-fired power plants are the largest source in the United States of the carbon emissions that are responsible for climate change. Navajo Generating Station alone emitted 15 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, equal to about 3.7 million cars driven for one year.”

The Secret History of Kimberly Guilfoyle’s Departure from Fox (The New Yorker): “In November, 2018, a young woman who had been one of Guilfoyle’s assistants at Fox News sent company executives a confidential, forty-two-page draft complaint that accused Guilfoyle of repeated sexual harassment, and demanded monetary relief. The document, which resulted in a multimillion-dollar out-of-court settlement, raises serious questions about Guilfoyle’s fitness as a character witness for Trump, let alone as a top campaign official … The woman was hired in 2015, just out of college, to work as an assistant for Guilfoyle … the assistant alleged that Guilfoyle, her direct supervisor, subjected her frequently to degrading, abusive, and sexually inappropriate behavior; among other things, she said that she was frequently required to work at Guilfoyle’s New York apartment while the Fox host displayed herself naked, and was shown photographs of the genitalia of men with whom Guilfoyle had had sexual relations. The draft complaint also alleged that Guilfoyle spoke incessantly and luridly about her sex life, and on one occasion demanded a massage of her bare thighs; other times, she said, Guilfoyle told her to submit to a Fox employee’s demands for sexual favors, encouraged her to sleep with wealthy and powerful men, asked her to critique her naked body, demanded that she share a room with her on business trips, required her to sleep over at her apartment, and exposed herself to her, making her feel deeply uncomfortable.”

Two Fusion Researchers Explain The Tokamak Reactor That I Want To Be Hurled Into (Defector): “… what they’ll be producing at the core of a tennis-court-sized, donut-like device called a tokamak is a compact cloud of unfathomably hot plasma, suspended in a vacuum, fusing atoms and pumping out incredible energy. They will have made a little star.”

How President Trump Ruined Political Comedy (The New York Times): “… liberal clip shows … faces an identity crisis, for two reasons. First, the media does not play along with President Trump; it is openly contemptuous of him, in a way that shunts comedians out of saying what we’re all thinking and into the more difficult position of topping what we’re all saying. Second, Trump’s success has proved that pointing out hypocrisy doesn’t work — not, at least, as a way to thwart the hypocrite. As a way to attract the 18-to-34 demographic, it remains a reliable tactic … Trump is constantly saying things he doesn’t mean … or things he kind of means but goes on to retract … or things he didn’t mean at first but later does … or things nobody thought he meant that he apparently did … as well as things he seemingly did mean before he retroactively declared them sarcasm … Ambiguous irony opens up space for Trump to revise the meaning of his statements later, when he knows how they have played … This miasma of ill-defined but ever-present irony makes Trump virtually impossible to mock, because that job is taken … Trump has effectively neutralized political comedy by shifting the place where jokes happen from the soundstage to the White House. The unsettling thing about this approach is that it works — not just as a way to defang satirists but also as a way to wield power.”

♥ For a limited time, take an extra 40% off all sale items at Anthropologie; no code needed, discount taken in cart. Shipping is free on orders over $50. My picks:

Enjoy Your Meal—Quickly. Restaurants Introduce Time Limits. (The Wall Street Journal): “To survive the pandemic, some restaurants are taking an unusual approach to hospitality: showing diners the door. They are limiting meals to 90 minutes or two hours to stay afloat amid capacity limits due to the virus.”

No, It’s Not COVID. But Your Allergies Are Worse This Fall. Here’s Why (Vogue): “The counts have been high this fall for weed pollens … a summer of minimal rainfall, specifically in the Northeast, has created ideal conditions for the plant to thrive. And if what is essentially an over-reactive immune response to outdoor and indoor allergens feels particularly prolonged this year, that’s because it is.”

What I Learned Inside the N.B.A. Bubble (The New York Times): “In theory, the N.B.A. bubble sounds ridiculous, like a devastating parody of consumer capitalism. In the midst of our global nightmare, the world’s most powerful basketball league decided to finish its season in the candy-colored refuge of the world’s most famous theme park. Players would live in strict isolation at Disney resorts, where they would have access to the kind of rapid daily virus testing that, for months, the rest of the nation had been begging for. Games would take place in arenas without crowds. Regular citizens, quarantined at home, could watch it all on television. The N.B.A. bubble was like a circus crossed with a corporate retreat crossed with a space mission. It was March Madness in Versailles.”

Cover Your Eyes! This College Football Season Is Ugly (The Wall Street Journal): “The coronavirus pandemic wiped out months of practice during the spring and summer, and lately teams are often reshuffling depth charts on short notice to cope with test results that sideline players. Teams are making far more mistakes than usual and upsets abound … At least 10 of the 15 teams competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season … have had to halt practices temporarily after Covid-19 clusters on their rosters. There have also been pauses at close to half of Big 12 and Southeastern Conference schools.”

What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless (HBR): “… try to act on whatever aspect of the situation is still in your control, no matter how minor. That will bolster your feelings of personal effectiveness and make it easier to then move on to more-meaningful goals … you can mold your job to contribute solutions to your community’s current problems. Start by taking an inventory of your skills and resources, and then think creatively about where they could be put to good use … you can still find meaning by focusing on the future.”

How to Cover a Sick Old Man (The New York Times): “It’s hard not to feel some human revulsion for the sight of healthy, TV-ready young journalists braying for the vital signs of a sick old man. But there is no question that this prying is in the urgent public interest, and the White House press corps is working with admirable aggression and openness … journalists must get past the taboos and be frank about the normal process of aging … When politicians won’t share honest results, health experts’ long-range diagnoses should be treated as news. The whispers by reporters and lawmakers’ aides about feeling as if they work in a nursing home should find their way onto the record.”

♥ Recently purchased: J. Crew Turtleneck Poncho, Free People Seasons Change Funnel Neck Sweater, FP Movement Give It A Whirl Cutout Dress, Ulla Johnson Faye Bow Front Cotton Tank Top (too cute… if not at all seasonally appropriate), and Sézane Johnson Coat.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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