In the News 29.11.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 29.11.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 29.11.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 29.11.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

How to Get Your Mind to Read

Americans are not good readers. Many blame the ubiquity of digital media. We’re too busy on Snapchat to read, or perhaps internet skimming has made us incapable of reading serious prose. But Americans’ trouble with reading predates digital technologies. The problem is not bad reading habits engendered by smartphones, but bad education habits engendered by a misunderstanding of how the mind reads.

Just how bad is our reading problem? The last National Assessment of Adult Literacy from 2003 is a bit dated, but it offers a picture of Americans’ ability to read in everyday situations: using an almanac to find a particular fact, for example, or explaining the meaning of a metaphor used in a story. Of those who finished high school but did not continue their education, 13 percent could not perform simple tasks like these. When things got more complex — in comparing two newspaper editorials with different interpretations of scientific evidence or examining a table to evaluate credit card offers — 95 percent failed.

There’s no reason to think things have gotten better. Scores for high school seniors on the National Assessment of Education Progress reading test haven’t improved in 30 years.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times


Trapped: The Grenfell Tower Story

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Buildings aren’t supposed to burn the way London’s Grenfell Tower did. But to the residents stuck inside, and to the firefighters who rushed to save them, this was a different kind of fire, a blaze that burned at 1,800 degrees, a devastating inferno that killed dozens and shocked an entire nation. This is the untold story of what it felt like to fight that fire and to flee it—a story of a thousand impossible decisions and the people who dared that night to make them.

1. Incipient Stage

Oluwaseun Talabi didn’t want to live in the tower anymore. The 30-year-old, a watchful, muscular man who worked in construction, said as much to his family on the night of June 13, 2017. Talabi lived with his partner, Rosemary, and their 4-year-old daughter in a two-bedroom apartment on the 14th floor of a London high-rise called Grenfell Tower. Their home was on the southwest corner of the tower, which meant its windows provided two very different city panoramas. From the living room, you looked west to some of the poorer fringes of the British capital. The bedrooms faced ritzier territory to the south—roads lined with mansion homes that seemed continuously under renovation, their cellars scooped deeper and deeper into the city to make room for new amenities.

Like a lot of Grenfell’s occupants, Talabi and his family were public-housing tenants, their homes provided by the neighborhood municipal authority, Kensington and Chelsea Council. Around 350 people lived in the tower, 129 one- and two-bedroom apartments stacked 24 stories high. The building had lately been refurbished, its bolted-on satellite dishes stripped from the outside walls and replaced by neat squares of insulating paneling, so that the building’s 1970s concrete core—for 50 years plainly and brownly exposed—was concealed behind the bluish silver of new cladding. Theirs wasn’t an objectionable home, but Talabi couldn’t be comfortable here. He had told his family more than once: “I didn’t like this place from the first day I got in here. And I won’t like it till the last day.”

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

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From Inboxing To Thought Showers: How Business Bullshit Took Over

As one of David Lynch’s regular players, MacLachlan has learned not to parse the material for meaning—just as he’s learned not to demand too much explanation from his director. This, he admits, he learned the hard way. “On Dune, I was rabid. I drove David to madness,” he says. “And finally he closed the door on me.” He offers no detailed analysis of what has transpired over the show’s 16 episodes so far, and I get the sense that my intuition—to focus less on the meaning and more on the form—is the best way to experience it.

Instead, he accepts that there’s a purpose to everything he’s done, simply because Lynch has created it. He offers an explanation for the director’s working relationship with Mark Frost, who is certainly more grounded in his craft. “Mark is the kind of writer who says there needs to be reason and process,” he explains. Lynch, on the other hand, pays closer attention to theme and ideas—particularly where evil comes from, how it corrupts innocent men and women as it spreads like a virus, and where to put it in order to keep it contained. “I don’t think David feels compelled to resolve everything by any means, maybe because of the idea that it’s ongoing and we’ll pick it back up if we have to,” he says, pointing to the differences in the way Lynch and Frost attack the material. “Maybe that’s why they get together once every 25 years,” he laughs.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian


The Education of Mark Zuckerberg


There’s a story that Mark Zuckerberg has told dozens of times over the years. Shortly after he’d launched Facebook in February 2004, he went to get pizza with Kang-Xing Jin, a coder friend who would become a Facebook executive, at a place around the corner from his dorm.

In one telling, Zuckerberg says he was thinking, “this is great that we have this community that now people can connect within our little school, but clearly one day, someone is going to build this for the world.”

But there was no reason to expect that this kid and his group of friends would be the people who would build this for the world. “It hadn’t even crossed my mind,” he said in 2013. They were technically gifted, but as Zuckerberg tells it, they had basically no resources or experience at a time when there were already massive technology companies trying to create social networks from MySpace to Microsoft, Google to Yahoo.

Looking back, it’s also clear that they had no experience with community building, organizing, sociology, social work, or any other discipline that might have helped them understand the social forces they were unleashing, quantifying, amplifying, and warping. Mark Zuckerberg was just a kid eating pizza after writing some code.

13 years later, he wields unquestioned formal and informal control over a company that is now the battleground for elections as well as home to cultural discourse and basic family relationships.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

How The Sandwich Consumed Britain


The invention of the chilled packaged sandwich, an accessory of modern British life which is so influential, so multifarious and so close to hand that you are probably eating one right now, took place exactly 37 years ago. Like many things to do with the sandwich, this might seem, at first glance, to be improbable. But it is true. In the spring of 1980, Marks & Spencer, the nation’s most powerful department store, began selling packaged sandwiches out on the shop floor. Nothing terribly fancy. Salmon and cucumber. Egg and cress. Triangles of white bread in plastic cartons, in the food aisles, along with everything else. Prices started at 43p.

Looking upon the nation’s £8bn-a-year sandwich industrial complex in 2017, it seems inconceivable that this had not been tried before, but it hadn’t. Britain in 1980 was a land of formica counters, fluorescent lighting and lunches under gravy. Sandwiches were thrown together from leftovers at home, constructed in front of you in a smoky cafe, or something sad and curled beneath the glass in a British Rail canteen. When I spoke recently to Andrew Mackenzie, who used to run the food department at M&S’s Edinburgh store – one of the first five branches to stock the new, smart, ready-made sandwiches – he struggled to convey the lost novelty of it all. “You’ve got to bear in mind,” he said. “It didn’t exist, the idea.”

If anything, it seemed outlandish. Who would pay for something they could just as easily make at home? “We all thought at the time it was a bit ridiculous,” said Mackenzie. But following orders from head office, he turned a stockroom into a mini production line, with stainless steel surfaces and an early buttering machine. The first M&S sandwiches were made by shop staff in improvised kitchens and canteens. Prawns defrosted on trays overnight, and a team of five came in before dawn to start work on the day’s order.

And, oh, they sold. They sold so fast that the sandwich experiment spread from five stores to 25, and then 105. Soon, Mackenzie was hiring more sandwich makers in Edinburgh. In the Croydon branch, a crew of seven was making a hundred sandwiches an hour. The first official M&S sandwich was salmon and tomato, but in truth it was a free-for-all. They sold so fast that staff made them out of whatever was lying around. In Cambridge, they made pilchard sandwiches, and people wanted those, too.

Without being designed to do so, the packaged sandwich spoke to a new way of living and working. Within a year, demand was so strong that M&S approached three suppliers to industrialise the process. (One of the world’s first sandwich factories was a temporary wooden hut inside the Telfer’s meat pie factory in Northampton.) In 1983, Margaret Thatcher visited the company’s flagship store in Marble Arch and pronounced the prawn mayonnaise delicious.

Every supermarket jumped on the trend. Up and down the country, chefs and bakers and assorted wheeler-dealers stopped whatever they were doing and started making sandwiches on industrial estates. The sandwich stopped being an afterthought, or a snack bought out of despair, and became the fuel of a dynamic, go-getting existence. “At Amstrad the staff start early and finish late. Nobody takes lunches – they may get a sandwich slung on their desk,” Alan Sugar told an audience at City University in 1987. “There’s no small-talk. It’s all action.” By 1990, the British sandwich industry was worth £1bn.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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