Skims: 15 April 2014

If Michael Phelps Swims, Subway Sinks (via @BV)

According to Rule 40 of the International Olympic Committee charter, “Except as permitted by the IOC executive board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.”

Canada’s Climate Warms to Corn as Grain Belt Shifts North (via @BloombergNews)

Growing seasons on the Canadian prairie have lengthened about two weeks in the past half-century. The mean annual temperature is likely to climb by as much as 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) in the region by 2050, according to Canadian researchers.

In Canada, that means amber waves of wheat are giving way to green fields of corn. Farmers sowed a record 405,000 acres of corn in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta last year, double the amount two years earlier and almost eight times what it was 20 years ago. That compares with an estimated 95.4 million acres sown in the U.S. last year.

The Rise and Fall of AIM, the Breakthrough AOL Never Wanted (via @mashable)

The administrator had tried to block AIM, but the program had eventually hopped around until it had attached to something the company couldn’t risk interrupting: the port that synchronized time across the entire company’s computer system.

“The admins had no clue how to block us. We were like malware from their point of view.” The program blossomed, drawing as many as 18 million simultaneous users. Professionals flocked to it. ”AIM became how all Wall Street communicated,” Appelman said.

‘Everyone is missing out on something’

My colleague and friend wrote this. It is wonderful.

I Thought The World Would Stop Turning When I Left Home To Go Travel

Skims: 31 March

Activist investors bring the bucks. (bloomberg)

noisy investors such as Carl Icahn, Bill Ackman and Nelson Peltz — who urge corporate heads to rethink their strategies and expedite stock-boosting changes — generated a 48 percent average gain for shareholders of the companies they’ve preyed on in the last five calendar years

California’s drought has create an “arms race” among farmers to shore up water. more water-demanding crops such as the almond which takes a gallon of water to produce one nut. (Mercury News)

The Central Valley’s reserves are shrinking by 800 billion gallons a year — enough to supply every resident of California with water for seven months

It takes slightly more than a gallon of water to produce one almond, three-quarters of a gallon to grow a single pistachio and 4.9 gallons to grow a single walnut.

British Columbia has a really good policy for curbing gas-guzzling. BC’s carbon tax has led to gas use “declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas.” A study found a “17 percent per capita decline in fuel consumption in BC.” Plus, the tax has brought in some $5 billion in revenue so far, which results in tax breaks for consumers. (Mother Jones)

San Francisco’s Los Angeles’ Metro is figuring out how to harness wind power from subway trains as they fly through tunnels and use it for powering electric car charging stations, lights in stations and tunnels, escalators and more. (The Source)

Correction: Previous version of this post named San Francisco’s Metro, while it is Los Angeles’ metro that is exploring energy generated in subway tunnels.

Skims: End of March Weekend

The University of Washington has a guide on how to report on mental health issues.

Notes on the upcoming election for the world’s largest democracy, India. (electionista)

  • Voting takes places over 9 days: on April 7, 9, 10, 12, 17, 24, 30, May 7 and, finally, on May 12
  • 814 million eligible voters, casting ballots at 930,000 polling booths to elect the 543-seat lower house
  • Four million staff will be deployed during the election
  • There are more than 100 million first time voters
  • Turnout in 2009 was 58.7%. The Election Commission expects it to hit an unprecedented 70% this year
  • India’s election campaign spending is expected to hit $5bn – second only to the most expensive U.S. campaign of all time.

Where everyone in the world is migrating. (qz)

  • It’s not the poorest countries sending people to the richest countries, it’s countries in transition—still poor, but with some education and mobility—that are the highest migratory contributors.
  • The largest regional migration is from Southeast Asia to the Middle East.

Good read: The 25-Year-Old at the Helm of Lonely Planet. (Outside)

Last year, a media-shy billionaire bought the flailing Lonely Planet travel-guide empire, then shocked observers by hiring an unknown 24-year-old former wedding photographer to save it. Charles Bethea straps in for a bizarre ride as a kid mogul tries to remake a legendary brand for the digital age.

Venezuela is investigating whether crossword puzzles in a local Venezuelan newspaper are calling readers to violent protests with inciting messages. (Bloomberg)

Skims: 28 March 2014

Tracing Americans’ fear of fat to a Senator in 1976 who was concerned about his colleagues dying off. (NPR)

“If you look at the statistics, members were dying at a rather large rate,” Senate historian Don Ritchie tells us …

Sen. McGovern, a Democrat from South Dakota, called his hearing … he called as a witness a Harvard University professor who pointed to the harms of overconsumption of fat.

The hearing led to the creation of the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans.

“The thinking of the day is that you wanted to reduce fat,” says science writer Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat.

Mudslide buried the love of his life, sitting beside him. (LAT)

“That he was able to survive and dig himself out … I really wish he’d been able to save her too. But at least I still have one parent.”

App signals end of times. (CNET)

A newly published patent application suggests a way to display video on your iPhone that shows the path ahead as you look down.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of  the ‘Bishop of Bling,’ who spent $43 million renovating this house. (WaPo)

  • Item: hanging an advent wreath. Bill: $25,000. Fun Fact: Workers had to open up the chapel roof — with a crane — to install it.
  • Item: heated stones. Bill: $26,000.Fun Fact: They were used to line outdoor paths for more comfortable walking.
  • Item: Bronze window frames. Bill: $2.38 million. Fun fact: The cost was supposed to be half that. But Tebartz-van Elst, the report shows, really wanted his window frames to be bronze.


What could have been…

Who turned down the vice presidency twice, only to have both presidents who offered him the spot die while they were in office?

Daniel Webster  (cnn with the tip)

California Gov. Jerry Brown seems pretty cool. (LAT)

“He shuns most trappings of the office. There’s no motorcade, no entourage. The governor showed up at the elections department with a lone campaign advisor and his wife, who snapped a photo using her smart phone.”

“Brown fashions many of his own speeches, veto messages and even press releases. His staff in the governor’s office is about half that of his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who employed as many as 230. He often goes months without a public appearance, sometimes holed up at his home in the Oakland hills, calling authors, experts and others he wrings for information.”

More reason to be afraid of e-cigs. (NYT)

like e-cigarettes, e-liquids are not regulated by federal authorities. They are mixed on factory floors and in the back rooms of shops, and sold legally in stores and online in small bottles that are kept casually around the house for regular refilling of e-cigarettes.

Evidence of the potential dangers is already emerging. Toxicologists warn that e-liquids pose a significant risk to public health, particularly to children, who may be drawn to their bright colors and fragrant flavorings like cherry, chocolate and bubble gum.

Interesting ideas about what is behind Twitter’s reported use is experimenting with new interaction processes between users. (via qz)

As a public company, the pressure is on Twitter to grow. That means getting people to spend more time on the site, and getting more people to show up in the first place. This is no doubt what’s behind recent rumors that Twitter is eliminating some of its conventions, like @ replies and hashtags, because they’re “arcane.” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has admitted that Twitter can be confusing and “opaque” for new users.

Taxpayers funding Creationism curriculum. (politico) … But not Fox!

Taxpayers in 14 states will bankroll nearly $1 billion this year in tuition for private schools, including hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies.

Why I Am Not On Instagram

I went on a snowboarding trip to Utah with my brother and good friend. Long days on great mountains. Yet, these are the only photos I turn up:

Adam and Eve (LDS style)The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints’  Visitor’s Center Adam and Eve (A lot of “of” and apostrophes in that title there)

Einstein Bros. Doggie Bagel Treat

Einstein Bros. Doggie Bagel treats, seen while purchasing provisions for a day on the mountain.

Finland vs. SwedenFinland vs. Sweden in the 2014 Winter Olympics, as watched over lunch at ski hill lodge.

Over the trip, my brother landed a backflip, I busted my foot, we saw a moose on a run, and I got to spend time with friends and family I seldom see. These are the photos I come away with.



Reading For Rain

This week finally brought some precipitation to the Bay Area. Enough to even get my socks wet through my shoes. Loved it. Also love that it creates an atmosphere prime for good reading. Here, some selections on a health theme.

(encountered via @davepell)


Clusters of Affluence in San Francisco by Chris Walker

My very talented friend Chris Walker has created an interactive visualization that illustrates the socio-economic upheaval that is consuming San Francisco, and reverberating around the country.

The influx of money from technology companies has given rise to gentrification, growing inequality, demarcated neighborhoods, resentment, and GOOGLE BUSES.

Chris’ visualization:

explores the relationship between private shuttle stop locations and indicators of neighborhood affluence. Private commuter shuttles are used by many large tech companies based in the South Bay.

Screenshot 2014-01-28 03.51.18
It has a bunch of bells and whistles to boot. Highly recommend you give it a look.

PandoDaily and Valleywag picked up the piece recently as well.


2014-01-25 17.13.25
My new favorite park.

Movement undertaken by a friend of a friend seeking to overturn the ban on snowboarding at Utah’s Alta ski resort. Alta is one of three ski areas not permitting use by snowboarders. Of the three, Alta is the only one on PUBLIC LANDS, which adds an interesting layer to the matter.

Not a hip hop buff, but I definitely do enjoy the good stuff. There seems to be a lot of good stuff here,, a site by Jeff Weiss. Weiss wrote this awesome piece on rapper Kendrick Lamar, my jump off point for more of his work.

Interesting, potentially influential case: Supreme Court weighs how much one person should pay pornography victim

the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Paroline v. Unknown Amy, which involves the question of how much child pornography market participants should be individually required to pay for the harm to the subjects of the videos. (via

The case could be a game changer. Courts ruled that victims of such crimes deserve restitution, to be paid in this case by the persons who viewed the images. But what if it isn’t known how many viewed the images? How do you divide up the sum of the restitution between an unknown number of perpetrators? The decision the court is weighing is lumping the whole sum on the first perpetrator; let them deal with dividing it up between all other transgressors.

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