Summary of “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: what sports have taught me about race in America”

As the Guardian’s series on race and sports starts today – and we mark two years since Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the national anthem – I am reminded that whenever an NBA player comes close to shattering one of my dusty old records, eager journalists contact me to ask how I feel.
Sports is the most popular form of entertainment, with Americans spending about $56bn on sports events last year, compared to about $11bn on movies.
For African Americans, sports has all those values – but it also has some extra implications.
For people of color, professional sports has always been a mirror of America’s attitude toward race: as long as black players were restricted from taking the field, then the rest of black Americans would never truly be considered equal, meaning they would not be given equal educational or employment opportunities.
Sports may be the best hope for change regarding racial disparity because it has the best chance of informing white Americans of that disparity and motivating them to act.
To white America, the history of US sports is a rising graph of remarkable achievements of physical and mental strength.
Some see sports as a path for their children to escape the endless cycle of poverty.
We can’t promote professional sports as a real hope any more than we can endorse the lottery as a career strategy.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Weekend at Yale That Changed American Politics”

Convened principally by Steven Calabresi, who was at Yale Law, and Lee Liberman and David McIntosh, who were at University of Chicago Law, some 200 people arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, on the last weekend of April for a three-day symposium.
In the 36 years since, it has become one of the most influential legal organizations in history-not only shaping law students’ thinking but changing American society itself by deliberately, diligently shifting the country’s judiciary to the right.
Among the speakers at the first Federalist Society meeting were Robert Bork, then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Antonin Scalia, then a law professor at the University of Chicago; and Ted Olson, then a DOJ assistant attorney general.
The Ludwig von Mises Society? The Alexander Bickel Society? The Anti-Federalist Society? The Anti-Federalists, after all, were the ones who sought a more decentralized government at the time of the founding of the country.
They landed on the Federalist Society, because it invoked the Federalist Papers and the long-running American debate about the appropriate balance of power between the national and state governments.
He ticked off a to-do list: “How to get the right people into the study of law. How to get into the right law school. How to succeed as a conservative in law school. Law student participation in politics and government. How to get better people on law faculties. How to get a good clerking job. How to become a judge. How to make sure the right people get to be judges.”
Five months after the heady weekend at Yale, it was official: The Federalist Society, technically the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, was a national, nonprofit corporation.
In the following five years, the society established an office in Washington and watched chapters open at 15 law schools, then 30, then 75, then more.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Beautiful Intelligence of Bacteria and Other Microbes”

Using conventional recording equipment, even iPhones, in broad daylight, Bouman and company filmed a building corner’s “Penumbra”: the shadowy area that is illuminated by a subset of the light rays coming from the hidden region around the corner.
If there’s a person in a red shirt walking there, for example, the shirt will project a tiny amount of red light into the penumbra, and this red light will sweep across the penumbra as the person walks, invisible to the unaided eye but clear as day after processing.
In groundbreaking work reported in June, Freeman and colleagues reconstructed the “Light field” of a room – a picture of the intensity and direction of light rays throughout the room – from the shadows cast by a leafy plant near the wall.
The leaves act as pinspeck cameras, each blocking out a different set of light rays.
The known shape of the houseplant, the assumption that natural images tend to be smooth, and other “Priors” allow the researchers to make inferences about noisy signals, which helps sharpen the resulting image.
While Freeman, Torralba and their protégés uncover images that have been there all along, elsewhere on the MIT campus, Ramesh Raskar, a TED-talking computer vision scientist who explicitly aims to “Change the world,” takes an approach called “Active imaging”: He uses expensive, specialized camera-laser systems to create high-resolution images of what’s around corners.
In 2012, realizing an idea he had five years earlier, Raskar and his team pioneered a technique that involves shooting laser pulses at a wall so that a small fraction of the scattered light bounces around a barrier.
“Then light from a particular point on the head, a particular point on the shoulder, and a particular point on the knee might all arrive at the same exact time,” Raskar said.

The orginal article.

Summary of “It Came From the ’70s: The Story of Your Grandma’s Weird Couch”

The grandma factor is practically built in-even as a young woman, grandma wanted the furniture her grandma had. “The Colonial Revival style endured, but it took on different forms over the years in post-World War II America, which is what I tend to write about and focus on at Retro Renovation,” Kueber says.
“Every week, we visited their very memorable home, which had a swimming pool and a tangerine tree in back. They had a Knotty Pine family room, too, right next to the wood-paneled kitchen with the Early American cupboard, where Grandma kept her big salt-and-pepper shaker collection. Grandpa would offer us those Orange Slices, that jelly candy with the sugar coating. It was a very prototypical ’60s Grandma and Grandpa house.”
A Getty Image taken by Steve Errico shows a brown-tone floral-print couch similar to the Grandma Couch in the context of a ’70s living room.
“I say in the Mid-Century Modest Manifesto, maybe a million people had those fully Modernist houses. For every million people who had one of those, tens of millions of Americans had a more traditional home. Even in the new suburban ranch-house layouts, the majority of American homes and the stuff in them were what I call Mid-Century Modest, which was more like what we’re talking about, what your grandma had with her Early American furniture and sofa. They came from farms. They wanted something more conservative, traditional, practical. And they liked Early American décor.”
Speaking of fabrics, the wackiest aspect of the Grandma Couch is the Old West picture-pattern upholstery.
“Colonial Revivals often come during those big anniversaries. Millennials want to do the opposite of whatever their mother did, and maybe more like what Grandma did. They love Grandma, but they must disengage from their mother. Millennials might kind of like some Colonial motifs like cannonball beds. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re beautiful.”
As for the Grandma Couch, it is not just snubbed by the Gaines and the high-brow coastal elite; it regularly wins low-brow online competitions for World’s Ugliest Couch.
“Maybe the fashion didn’t last-we all make mistakes,” Kueber says, admitting that the first impulse most young people have is to mock the Grandma Couch.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Kids Want Things”

Pinsker: Can you talk a bit about what the alternative is to dwelling on physical stuff-the “Intangible resources” that kids have for making conversation, like who they are and things they’re good at?
So if kids have more things like athletic skills or activities that they can talk about or form connections with friends over those things, they can feel good about themselves through many different kinds of things.
She gives them words on paper and asks, “How important are these things to you?” And then they put the most important things on their collage.
As the kids get to middle-school age, more and more tangible things get on there and a larger percent of them are actual things, as opposed to activities or other people.
One of the most consistent findings is the association between the person’s current level of materialism and how they perceived their parents using things when they were growing up.
The helpful thing for parents here-and also the harmful-is yes, peers are really important, but our kids are watching us.
Pinsker: And from what I understand, that connects to the research you’ve done on when parents offer physical things as rewards.
So that’s another reasonably strong association: Children who recall that their parents just bought them stuff when they wanted it, or who paid them money or bought them things when they got good grades, there’s a very consistent association that when these things happen in childhood, when that person is an adult, they’re more likely to be materialistic.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The New Science of Seeing Around Corners”

Like pinholes and pinspecks, edges and corners also restrict the passage of light rays.
Using conventional recording equipment, even iPhones, in broad daylight, Bouman and company filmed a building corner’s “Penumbra”: the shadowy area that is illuminated by a subset of the light rays coming from the hidden region around the corner.
If there’s a person in a red shirt walking there, for example, the shirt will project a tiny amount of red light into the penumbra, and this red light will sweep across the penumbra as the person walks, invisible to the unaided eye but clear as day after processing.
In groundbreaking work reported in June, Freeman and colleagues reconstructed the “Light field” of a room – a picture of the intensity and direction of light rays throughout the room – from the shadows cast by a leafy plant near the wall.
The known shape of the houseplant, the assumption that natural images tend to be smooth, and other “Priors” allow the researchers to make inferences about noisy signals, which helps sharpen the resulting image.
While Freeman, Torralba and their protégés uncover images that have been there all along, elsewhere on the MIT campus, Ramesh Raskar, a TED-talking computer vision scientist who explicitly aims to “Change the world,” takes an approach called “Active imaging”: He uses expensive, specialized camera-laser systems to create high-resolution images of what’s around corners.
In 2012, realizing an idea he had five years earlier, Raskar and his team pioneered a technique that involves shooting laser pulses at a wall so that a small fraction of the scattered light bounces around a barrier.
In March, a paper published in Nature set a new standard for efficient, cost-effective 3-D imaging of an object – specifically, a bunny figurine – around a corner.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Houston, one year after Hurricane Harvey, is at a crossroads.”

For the past decade, the entire course had sat in the 100-year flood plain-land, usually near bodies of water, that has been assessed as having a 1 percent chance of flooding every year.
The water from the course would flow into Brickhouse Gully, which would in turn rush east to empty into a bigger channel, the White Oak Bayou, along which more than 8,000 houses were flooded during Harvey.
Unprecedented storms have brought three straight years of biblical floods, culminating in Harvey, which inundated 154,170 homes in Harris County-the Delaware-sized area that contains the city of Houston and another Houston’s worth of people outside it.
The editorial board of the Houston Chronicle wrote, “Our city can no longer tolerate a civic philosophy that insists on construction at any cost. We can no longer allow developers to treat our city as their playground for profit. A natural sponge for floodwater would be transformed into a concrete pipeline that drains right into Buffalo Bayou.” And it was all happening along Brickhouse Gully, where, to avert future flood damage, the city had bought out 30 homes before Harvey and wanted to buy 15 more.
Among the Harvey survivors I met were Patti and R.J. Simon; last August was the fifth time their ranch house on Brays Bayou had flooded.
Thousands of plaintiffs whose houses flooded during Harvey have filed suit against the Army Corps of Engineers, which runs the city’s two giant dams, for flooding their homes without warning by releasing water from the reservoirs as they neared capacity.
In the year since Harvey, the Republican has emerged as a born-again advocate for better flood control.
During Harvey, Houston buildings in the 500-year flood plain were damaged at a slightly higher rate than those in the 100-year flood plain.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Is social media influencing book cover design?”

The rules of book cover design change decade by decade.
Social media – specifically Instagram, which promotes the coveting of beautiful covers on hashtags such as #bookstagram – is putting a new emphasis on cover aesthetics.
“With social media, people display their books in more places than their personal libraries at home. They’ve almost become an accessory in some cases,” says Rachel Willey, a designer behind covers including Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy and Melissa Broder’s merman-romance The Pisces.
Faber and Faber’s recent releases signify a new focus on design; the publisher is giving away free letterpress prints of the cover of Sally Rooney’s new book Normal People to those who pre-order.
Corral says social media directly affects his designs: “Our jacket art often has social media in mind, as we often create animated gifs, profile icons, and moving images that expand on the book jacket art and are designed to spread across the internet.”
Laing has described Crudo as the first book for which she knew exactly what the cover should be.
A cover can’t change the contents of its book, but it can be a reader’s first impression of the book’s identity, especially with social media; as Willey says: “People now see covers before they get released, before even going to a bookstore.”
Even the fashion world has caught on to the idea of the book as accessory: for their 2018 autumn/winter campaign, Loewe created a box set of literary classics, include Dracula and Don Quixote, with covers by photographer Steven Meisel.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Franken-algorithms: the deadly consequences of unpredictable code”

“In some ways we’ve lost agency. When programs pass into code and code passes into algorithms and then algorithms start to create new algorithms, it gets farther and farther from human agency. Software is released into a code universe which no one can fully understand.”
“People say, ‘Well, what about Facebook – they create and use algorithms and they can change them.’ But that’s not how it works. They set the algorithms off and they learn and change and run themselves. Facebook intervene in their running periodically, but they really don’t control them. And particular programs don’t just run on their own, they call on libraries, deep operating systems and so on …”.
“And I think that’s exactly the issue Facebook has. They can have simple algorithms to recognize my face in a photo on someone else’s page, take the data from my profile and link us together. That’s a very simple concrete algorithm. But the question is what is the effect of billions of such algorithms working together at the macro level? You can’t predict the learned behavior at the level of the population from microscopic rules. So Facebook would claim that they know exactly what’s going on at the micro level, and they’d probably be right. But what happens at the level of the population? That’s the issue.”
Anecdotal evidence of anomalous events on Amazon is plentiful, in the form of threads from bemused sellers, and at least one academic paper from 2016, which claims: “Examples have emerged of cases where competing pieces of algorithmic pricing software interacted in unexpected ways and produced unpredictable prices, as well as cases where algorithms were intentionally designed to implement price fixing.” The problem, again, is how to apportion responsibility in a chaotic algorithmic environment where simple cause and effect either doesn’t apply or is nearly impossible to trace.
Only when a pair of embedded software experts spent 20 months digging into the code were they able to prove the family’s case, revealing a twisted mass of what programmers call “Spaghetti code”, full of algorithms that jostled and fought, generating anomalous, unpredictable output.
How do we avoid clashes in such a fluid code milieu, not least when the algorithms may also have to defend themselves from hackers?
“No one knows how to write a piece of code to recognize a stop sign. We spent years trying to do that kind of thing in AI – and failed! It was rather stalled by our stupidity, because we weren’t smart enough to learn how to break the problem down. You discover when you program that you have to learn how to break the problem down into simple enough parts that each can correspond to a computer instruction. We just don’t know how to do that for a very complex problem like identifying a stop sign or translating a sentence from English to Russian – it’s beyond our capability. All we know is how to write a more general purpose algorithm that can learn how to do that given enough examples.”
A group of Google employees resigned over and thousands more questioned the tech monolith’s provision of machine learning software to the Pentagon’s Project Maven “Algorithmic warfare” program – concerns to which management eventually responded, agreeing not to renew the Maven contract and to publish a code of ethics for the use of its algorithms.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Can You Afford to Change Your Career?”

Who wouldn’t want a meaningful career and better balance between work and home? For many of us, it’s finances that keep us from making a career change.
We worry and wonder: What would a career change do to our bank accounts? To our way of life? To our family? We assume that a major reinvention would involve a gap between paychecks when we’d leave our job and break into a new field.
Like Steve, Amanda, and Brandon, we’re all drawn to career change for different reasons.
What if something unexpected happens in your new career? Or what if you can’t sell your home? Building or adding to an existing emergency fund will help ease the stress and worry of beginning a new career.
If your risk tolerance is fairly low but your proposed career change is one that will reduce your income by 75%, then you’ll probably want to rethink your choice.
Steve’s career change required different stages of setting and managing expectations with his wife, as his transition came in two phases that took place over four years.
Steve and his wife deliberated for a full year before he moved into the unpaid student phase of his career change.
The financial implications of a career change weigh heavily on the mind of anyone considering doing something different.

The orginal article.