News 11.08.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 11.08.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 11.08.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 11.08.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In every major economic downturn in US history, the ‘villains’ have been the ‘heroes’ during the preceding boom,” said the late, great management guru Peter Drucker. I cannot help but wonder if that might be the case over the next few years, as the United States (and possibly the world) heads toward its next big slowdown. Downturns historically come about once every decade, and it has been more than that since the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, banks were the “too-big-to-fail” institutions responsible for our falling stock portfolios, home prices and salaries. Technology companies, by contrast, have led the market upswing over the past decade. But this time around, it is the big tech firms that could play the spoiler role.

You wouldn’t think it could be so when you look at the biggest and richest tech firms today. Take Apple. Warren Buffett says he wished he owned even more Apple stock. (His Berkshire Hathaway has a 5% stake in the company.) Goldman Sachs is launching a new credit card with the tech titan, which became the world’s first $1tn market-cap company in 2018. But hidden within these bullish headlines are a number of disturbing economic trends, of which Apple is already an exemplar. Study this one company and you begin to understand how big tech companies – the new too-big-to-fail institutions – could indeed sow the seeds of the next crisis.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 11.08.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 11.08.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

One thing you should know about Jeffrey Martinez is that he understands and has cultivated and applies fortitude to his life. It’s one of seven Lakota values his mother, Martha, instilled in him from a young age. The others are humility, respect, compassion, prayer, generosity, and wisdom, which Jeffrey can list off easily, because he really knows them.

Fortitude is one of those words I knew was important when I first learned it, but that took time to understand, to practice, to be made a quality. The word is defined as “courage in pain or adversity.” This is one of the most beautiful definitions of a word not beautiful. I believe adversity can breed brilliance beyond what those with safe and comfortable lives are capable of. I’m not convinced that Jeffrey—Sicangu and Oglala Lakota from South Dakota, born and raised in Oakland, California—would be the excellent human being he is did he not know what happened to the men in his family. This is a truth he’s had to live with: that all the men died.

I’ve known Jeffrey’s family for more than a decade. I met Martha at the Native American Health Center in Oakland, where we both worked at the time. I first learned of Jeffrey’s existence in a digital-storytelling workshop Martha and I took together. She made a short film about having adopted Jeffrey straight from the hospital. Jeffrey is her brother’s son by birth. She adopted him because her brother died and his birth mother wasn’t able to take care of him. His Lakota name is Hokšila ókiyapi, which translates to Helped Him Boy. The film I made was also about becoming a parent, and what it means to pass the weight of our stories, our histories, on to the next generation. Our families are close now. His mom is the godmother of my son.

Until recently, I wasn’t particularly close to Jeffrey. I knew him as a quiet genius of Lego-and-cardboard art. He’d spend days, sometimes weeks, constructing Hogwarts Castle or a steam train or spaceships from Star Wars. A few years ago, he gave one of these massive and intricate homemade replicas to my son for his birthday. It still hangs in his room. This July, I spent a few days getting to know Jeffrey better. We first met up at his home, just off Piedmont Avenue in North Oakland, where he lives with Martha and her mother, Geri, who’s eighty-six. Their house is bright yellow, with an always-plentiful fig tree growing in the front yard. A couple blocks away, at St. Leo’s Church, my mom’s parents were married in 1943, and they are buried down the street, at Mountain View Cemetery. This part of Oakland used to make me think of my grandparents, of an Oakland they were a part of, which doesn’t exist anymore, gone with the many memories we lost when their house burned down in the ’91 Oakland fire. Now the area makes me think of Jeffrey, Martha, and Geri.

The day was sunny but not hot, and we spoke in the backyard, surrounded by sour grass and wildflowers. Laid out on the table between us, purring, was Luna, the family cat. “She likes it when people hang outside with her,” Jeffrey said. Luna is thirteen and a big part of the family’s life. When our families get together, we’re sure to hear about Luna’s latest hijinks, like the times—plural—she called Martha from their landline. One time, Luna rang as Jeffrey, Martha, and Geri were heading two and a half hours east to visit my family, in Angels Camp, California. Another time—and this is Jeffrey’s favorite story about Luna’s phone antics—she called Martha and left a voice-mail message. She meowed into the phone for seven minutes.

Read the rest of this article at: Esquire

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Toward the end of the 1960s, Luke Rhinehart worked as a psychoanalyst in New York and was bored stiff. He lived in a pretty apartment with a nice view. He practised yoga, read books on Zen, dreamed vaguely of joining a commune but did not dare. As a therapist, he was resolutely nondirective. If a patient who still had not lost his virginity was plagued by sadistic impulses and said on Rhinehart’s couch that he would like to rape and kill a little girl, his professional ethics obliged him to repeat with a calm voice: “You’d like to rape and kill a little girl?” No judgment. But what he wanted to say was: “Well, go ahead, then! If what really turns you on is raping and killing a little girl, then stop boring me with this fantasy. Do it!”

He checked himself before coming out with such monstrosities, but they obsessed him more and more. His own fantasies were nothing extreme – not enough to get him sent to prison – but like everyone else, he stopped himself going through with them. What Luke would have liked, for example, was to sleep with Arlene, the wife of his colleague Jake Ecstein, who lived across the landing. But as a faithful husband, he let the idea simmer away in the back of his mind.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 11.08.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Where do ideas come from? That’s a big question. Here’s a smaller one: Where do mathematical ideas come from? I’ve wondered about this from the time I first contemplated being a mathematician until long after I officially became one.

My earliest memory of anything like a mathematical idea comes from a childhood walk with my dad. We left the house and made our way toward downtown Metuchen, the tiny town in central Jersey where I grew up, to a little luncheonette called the Corner Confectionery. I can still picture it: the rack of newspapers, magazines, and comic books; the ice-cream treats in the back corner; the long counter with stools, where I used to sit and spin until I was told to stop. It was about a mile-long walk, reserved for special occasions. On that bright fall morning, we strolled up Spring Street—a beautiful street lined with huge oak trees—and talked about fractions, though I wouldn’t have known to call them that. We were puzzling over—or, rather, I was puzzling over—how to fairly divide a pie (probably one of the Corner Confectionery’s apple pies). My dad, a mathematical physicist, a man with an active mind, but one of few words, was a gentle guide, letting me think through things on my own.

We took our time walking, and we also took our time thinking and talking about the basic properties of numbers. In my head, it was easy to cut the pie in half, and then in half again, and again: two, four, or eight pieces. But, somewhere near Main Street, I got stuck on how to reliably create three, five, or six pieces. I started thinking about making bigger numbers out of smaller numbers. This leisurely walk through the neighborhood soon led me to the exciting idea that twelve was a great number. Twelve could be divided by one, two, three, four, and six. That’s a lot of numbers! If I had a pie cut into twelve pieces, it would be easy to divvy up dessert for many different-sized groups of friends. By the time we crossed the railroad tracks and arrived at the door of the Confectionery, I thought that I had made a remarkable discovery: Everyone! Stop! We need to think about the world in terms of twelves!

Ten or so years later, when I was a college freshman, I would learn that I had stumbled upon an instance of what is called an abundant number, a phenomenon first studied by the ancient Greeks. An abundant number is smaller than the sum of its divisors: in my case, the sum of one, two, three, four, and six (twelve’s divisors) is sixteen. That morning with my dad, I didn’t have a name for this phenomenon, but I was happy nonetheless, and maybe even happier because I was ignorant of the larger picture. It was my own surprising little discovery, born of walking and puzzling. Magic all around.

As odd as it might sound, I’ve never been particularly confident of my mathematical abilities. I don’t mean the arithmetic part, the part that people usually associate with being a mathematician. (“Hey, let Dan calculate the tip! Ha ha!”) It’s true that I’m probably better than average at mental math, but that’s not really what makes a mathematician a mathematician. My job is to come up with ideas. Sometimes we mathematicians call the things we think about and work with “objects,” which doesn’t mean triangles, spheres, or other shapes. Mathematical objects are big ideas about algebra, geometry, and logic, about the properties and definitions of numbers.

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

News 11.08.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Someone was targeting the security guard.

He felt he was being followed. His dog barked in the middle of the night. His wife saw fleeting figures lurking around their home. One night he awoke to find his front door open.

And now, to top it off, he was sick. Nausea rose up within him in waves as he made his rounds. He worked the night shift, which meant intermittent inspections from dusk to dawn, patrolling the grounds for any signs of trouble. The result was always the same: nothing.

He was the lone guard at the Advania data center, housed in a former U.S. naval base not far from the Reykjavík airport in Iceland. His job was to keep watch over two hangar-like buildings that held rows of small, box-like computers, the size of two cartons of cigarettes, stacked in towers as far as the eye could see. It was a hot, constantly blinking trove of devices, lashed together with tangles of cables and wires, all dedicated to a single job: mining the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin.

Working around the clock, seven days a week, the computers were part of the largest concentration of Bitcoin mining power in the world. By solving and packaging complex “blocks” of encrypted data, the machines helped secure and expand the worldwide network of digital currency. And in return for their work, they generated vast fortunes for their owners. The Advania network alone, operated by Iceland’s largest IT provider, pulled in what’s estimated to be millions a year.

The night shift at the data center was the worst, the country plunged into darkness 19 hours a day by a stingy sun. Braced against the arctic cold on this January evening, the security guard was feeling sicker by the minute. Finally, around 10 p.m., he jumped into his car and sped home, rushing straight to the bathroom. “Diarrhea,” an attorney would later explain. When he emerged, he was too weak to walk. So he lay on the couch—just for a minute!—and immediately fell asleep.

Jolted awake just before seven the next morning, he rushed to his car to return to work, only to find that someone had slashed his tires. He called headquarters and was told to wait for backup. Just after noon, the guard, who had gone back to sleep, awoke to the sound of police officers pounding on his door.

While he was sleeping, someone had broken into the data center and stolen 550 Bitcoin computers, along with motherboards, graphics cards, and power accessories—a haul worth $500,000 for the hardware alone. It was the fifth cryptocurrency data center in Iceland to be hit in two months. The total take: $2 million in tech gear.

But the true value of the computers was far greater. If the thieves knew how to operate them, the machines could be used to mine Bitcoins—an operation that would churn out a continuous stream of virtual money for the burglars, all of it encrypted and completely untraceable. The criminals weren’t robbing banks, or even Fort Knox. They were stealing the digital presses used to print money in the age of cryptocurrency.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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

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