News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Ethan Deyo’s small, sandy-haired dog cocked his head and perked up his ears, Deyo knew something was wrong. Deyo stepped out of the second-floor office of his Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home and peered down the stairs. That’s when he saw a man with a gun standing in his foyer, and he began to understand the peril he was in.
“Come here, motherfucker!” Deyo remembered the man screaming, pointing a gun at him. The gunman wore a baseball cap, had pantyhose pulled over his face, and sunglasses covered his eyes.
Deyo briefly raised his arms in surrender — then bolted into his bedroom. He slammed the door behind him and braced for impact. Moments later, the intruder kicked through the doorway and grabbed Deyo by the neck.
“Where’s your computer?” he demanded. According to Deyo’s courtroom testimony, he led the man across the hall and into his office with the gun now shoved into the small of his back. He sat down, the man opened up his MacBook Pro, and Deyo felt the gun move from his spine to the rear of his skull, the metal hard on his scalp.

Read the rest of this article at: One Zero

News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On a bright fall day in 1991, Chris Foster left his differential equations class at the University of California, Davis, bypassed students lounging on the quad, and headed toward the Domes, an on-campus co-op housing development. Although it was November, he was wearing his usual uniform: pink shorts, no shirt, no shoes. At the Domes, he harvested mesquite in a grove of trees and picked wild radishes and mallow in a nearby field. He then walked three miles west to Village Homes, another co-op, which he knew would be a scavenger’s cornucopia: full of late-season figs, apples, nuts, and wild grapes. Chris harvested only fallen fruit—he felt this was less invasive than picking from trees, and his aim was to tread lightly on the earth, to be almost invisible, in order to cause as little harm as possible.

Chris was a philosophy and math major, and he liked to think of himself as the Diogenes of Davis, a reference to the fourth-century BCE Cynic philosopher who renounced wealth and slept outdoors in a large ceramic jar. Chris had made a habit of trying to last the night outside without a sleeping bag. “I couldn’t accept the privileges of humanity when I didn’t want any part of humanity,” he told me. Eating fallen fruit and sleeping outside, however, didn’t provide him relief from his feelings of guilt and foreboding. He began to feel a dread that was inescapable and all-consuming. A devastating depression that he had suffered a few years before that fall semester returned. Normally a math phenom, Chris started failing his tests. In his apartment, he would sit in the dark—he didn’t want to waste electricity—listen to records, and cry. “I felt like I was slowly dying,” he said.

A few months later, Chris left Davis to pursue a PhD in philosophy at the University of Kansas. But his condition didn’t improve. After having subsisted on scavenged persimmons and radishes for the entire fall term, he’d lost a dangerous amount of weight. His mother paid a visit to campus and, horrified by his appearance, immediately drove him to the grocery store to buy food. At home, Chris’s family had a hard time understanding the intensity of the self-denial that governed his life. His father and sister blamed his breakdown on abuse that Chris had suffered as a child; they believed his desire to escape society was a projection, an act of taking responsibility for something that wasn’t his fault. But Chris had a different explanation. When he was fifteen, his father had taken him and his sister on a trip to Mount St. Helens. Halfway up the mountain, they had passed clear-cut land. As Chris recalls, one moment there was only evergreen forest and the next moment there was nothing—just bare ground and stumps as far as he could see. A word came to his mind: evil. From that day forward, something shifted in him. He didn’t want any part of such destruction. By his senior year in college, this conviction had grown into a personal mandate to renounce participation in human society altogether. He was offended by his family’s attempts to find explanations in his psychology for problems he thought of as external to him. “Why does my grief have to be because something bad happened to me?” he told me. “They made it sound like I had a psychosis or a mental breakdown and that this is just the form it took, when really, shouldn’t anyone who is ethical and compassionate also choose to opt out of this society?”

Read the rest of this article at: The Believer

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Ruthy Hope Slatis couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She’d been hired by a temp agency outside Boston for a vague job: transcribing audio files for Inc. For $12 an hour, she and her fellow contractors, or “data associates,” listened to snippets of random conversations and jotted down every word on their laptops. Amazon would only say the work was critical to a top-secret speech-recognition product. The clips included recordings of intimate moments inside people’s homes.

This was in fall 2014, right around the time Amazon unveiled the Echo speaker featuring Alexa, its voice-activated virtual-assistant software. Amazon pitched Alexa as a miracle of artificial intelligence in its first Echo ad, in which a family asked for and received news updates, answers to trivia questions, and help with the kids’ homework. But Slatis soon began to grasp the extent to which humans were behind the robotic magic she saw in the commercial. “Oh my God, that’s what I’m working on,” she remembers thinking. Amazon was capturing every voice command in the cloud and relying on data associates like her to train the system. Slatis first figured she’d been listening to paid testers who’d volunteered their vocal patterns in exchange for a few bucks. She realized that couldn’t be.

Read the rest of this article at: Bloomberg

News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

He doesn’t bother explaining why he’s here.

This is early on, late May, a few months into the race, but he is already of the belief that he is doing something extraordinary with his presidential campaign — something that’s never been done before. The trouble is describing it. There’s no word for this in modern politics. It is, he believes, “a new way to communicate with the American people” — though he won’t say this until later, and only when asked. Even now, long after he’s put this work at the center of his campaign — at his events, in ads, on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube — he won’t talk about it much. He isn’t sure it’ll work, or if people are “picking up on what we’re trying to do here.” The media, he believes, has always believed, can’t fathom what’s at the heart of this.

So when he arrives at the house, a small mobile home 40 miles outside Montgomery, Alabama, over the Lowndes County line, in one of the poorest places in the country, with five reporters and his own camera crew, he steps through the front door, greets his host, and begins with no clear mention of what he hopes to accomplish here or how it will help him become president.

Pamela Rush, a 49-year-old mother of two, is showing him the problems with her home: the floor tilting visibly to one side, the sheets of plaster peeling off the wall, the broken pipes, the broken cabinetry. He stops in the room where her daughter sleeps. “Do you guys wanna…?” He motions for everyone to come closer. His videographer shuffles forward. On the bedside table, there’s a ventilation machine, the kind used for sleep apnea. A tube of ribbed plastic connects the device to a mask resting on the bedspread, which is patterned cheerily with tiny elephants. Because of mold in the house, Pamela’s daughter needs the device to breathe in her sleep. “How old is she?” the candidate asks. She’s 10. Pamela holds up the mask so he can see up close.

“Show them, not me,” he says, gesturing toward the camera.

She shows the camera the mask.

The visit continues like this. “Show them,” he keeps saying. “Show them.” He speaks only to ask questions, prompting Pamela to “explain” this or that, pointing her to an unseen audience on the other end of his camera lens. It’s like he’s directing his own video — except the video isn’t about him or his campaign or his policy agenda. He is, it seems, somewhere offscreen, an omniscient narrator, felt maybe, but not seen or heard. This is not a public event. There is no crowd. There is no podium, no speech. Mostly, there is silence. The leader of the political revolution — a man who has spent 50 years of his life trying to talk about his ideas — is not saying much at all.

Read the rest of this article at: Buzzfeed

News 12.16.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Lung cancer, rampant. No surprise. I’ve smoked since I was sixteen, behind the high-school football bleachers in Northfield, Minnesota. I used to fear the embarrassment of dying youngish, letting people natter sagely, “He smoked, you know.” But at seventy-seven I’m into the actuarial zone.

I know about ending a dependency. I’m an alcoholic twenty-seven years sober. Drink was destroying my life. Tobacco only shortens it, with the best parts over anyway.

I got the preliminary word from my doctor by phone while driving alone upstate from the city to join my wife, Brooke, at our country place. After the call, I found myself overwhelmed by the beauty of the passing late-August land. At mile eighty-one of the New York State Thruway, the gray silhouettes of the Catskills come into view, perfectly framed and proportioned. How many times had I seen and loved the sight? How many more times would I? I thought of Thomas Cole’s paintings, from another angle, of those very old, worn mountains, brooding on something until the extinction of matter.

Patsy Cline was playing on the car radio: “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Not a great song, but performed in Cline’s way of attending selflessly to the sounds and the senses of the words. Showing how art should be done. She was thirty when she died in a plane crash, consummate.

I was at the wheel of my first brand-new car since 1962, a blue Subaru Forester that I dote on. I wanted for nothing. I want for nothing. The other night, I dreamed that I fetched the car from a parking lot only to find that it was another Subaru Forester, with two hundred thousand miles on it, dirty and falling apart. (That’s diseased me now, I suppose.) But the real one sits gleaming on East Seventh Street today.

Twenty-some years ago, I got a Guggenheim grant to write a memoir. I ended up using most of the money to buy a garden tractor. I failed for a number of reasons.

I don’t feel interesting.

I don’t trust my memories (or anyone’s memories) as reliable records of anything—and I have a fear of lying. Nor do I have much documentary material. I’ve never kept a diary or a journal, because I get spooked by addressing no one. When I write, it’s to connect.

I am beset, too, by obsessively remembered thudding guilts and scalding shames. Small potatoes, as traumas go, but intensified by my aversion to facing them.

Susan Sontag observed that when you have a disease people identify you with it. Fine by me! I could never sustain an expedient “I” for more than a paragraph. (Do you imagine that writers speak “as themselves”? No such selves exist.) Playing the Dying Man (Enter left. Exit trapdoor) gives me a persona. It’s a handy mask.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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