Summary of “Think you’re special? That just proves you’re normal”

Among the creepier experiences of modern life is one that happens to me, though definitely not just me, on a regular basis: I’ll meet a friend for a drink, he’ll recommend some book or film or product he thinks I’ll like, and then, within days – without searching for it online – I’ll start seeing targeted web ads for it.
There’s another reason Big Tech knows us so much better than we think, which is that each of us is far more normal than we realise.
All that’s really just a distraction from the brute statistical fact: on any given dimension, all else being equal, of course you’re probably normal.
Shorn of any value judgment, that’s all the word “Normal” means.
Your intelligence, your creativity, your tastes in culture or romantic partners, the degree to which the world has mistreated you: the chances are they’re much less quirky or extreme than you think, especially since we’ve each got strong ulterior motives to believe otherwise.
Or to put it another way: thinking you’re special is just one more way in which you’re normal.
This is the famous Lake Wobegon phenomenon known as “Illusory superiority”, which explains why most people think they’re above average at driving, at being unbiased, and various other things.
The trouble is that both the positive and negative forms of thinking you’re less normal than you are lead to misery – either by convincing you you’re unusually bad, or by turning life into an isolating, adversarial exercise in maintaining your sense of being unusually good.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What is beauty if not a jolt that awakens us to the world?”

‘ It’s a well-meaning attempt at democratisation, allowing us all the power to declare beauty even where others might dissent.
In Timaeus, Plato recognised beauty as the harmony and proportion of parts, made manifest in the ‘forms’ of the world.
The beautiful demands that we call it beautiful – we can recognise beauty anywhere and name it instantly – and yet there is something unsatisfactory in the idea that beauty could be narrowed to a singular set of characteristics or the isolated qualities of a given object.
The Roman philosopher Boethius, writing of the beauty of music in his sixth-century treatise De Musica, observes that when harmonious compositions of sound please us ‘we come to recognise that we ourselves are united according to this same principle of similarity’.
His didacticism over what constitutes beauty is a mark of his enormous confidence in his own ability to judge: smallness, smoothness, delicacy, gradual variety, fair colour, grace and elegance, he insists, are ‘the real cause of beauty’ and that in which ‘it really consists’.
Crucially, something unites us in our judgments of beauty.
It’s a cloying, rather vague expression, but there is something to this idea of a compact, the notion of a mutual realisation that unfolds between us and the object of our attention when we are engaged in judgments of beauty.
Who doesn’t know that jolting experience of adjacency, when a song sways us or a gesture penetrates, when we are beside ourselves, as it were, somehow outside of our ordinary sensations and thoughts? Isn’t this the beautiful? More recently, in Only a Promise of Happiness, the philosopher Alexander Nehamas characterised beauty as a kind of beckoning, an invitation to further exploration and interpretation.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Most Unlikely D.A. In America”

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas-A year into Mark Gonzalez’s first term as district attorney of Nueces County, Texas, hardly anything in his office is unpacked.
“Mark is emblematic of so many people’s dreams,” says Matt Manning, the first assistant for Gonzalez’s office, who has worked with him since 2014.
Gonzalez made the pitch even clearer to Manning: “If I become DA-if we become DA-with a stroke of a pen, we can help thousands of people, people like us, who need the help,” Gonzalez recalls.
In the hours after the final projections were made, Gonzalez’s mother and brother knocked on his door, found it locked, and made their way into his house through the garage.
“We didn’t know what happened,” Janna Gonzalez says, thinking the scene was a dream.
” Still three-quarters asleep, Gonzalez was trying to make sense of what they were saying.
At the crest of the wave was Mark Gonzalez, the unlikely new DA in Corpus Christi.
On the TV above the fireplace, “Live with Kelly and Ryan” is playing as Gonzalez plays with his 6-month-old daughter, drinks coffee out of a yellow mug marked with the Gadsden flag, and eats eggs and deer sausage.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Weird Science Behind Chain Restaurant Menus”

Appetizers or accompaniments? Separate entrees or combination meals? Should menus be customizable-letting guests build a meal from the ground up-or curated, which feels more premium and ‘chef-driven?’.
“Is there any item on today’s menu that represents the new direction that you want to go?”.
Listing the specials with a chalkboard instead of a digital menu: giving us the daily ‘news.
Even if we decided to offer street tacos or spring rolls on a client’s menu, there were a zillion ways to sauce the proteins, sauté the vegetables, and plate and package them for takeout.
The client’s old menu had suffered from a paradox of plenty.
We were in the business of “menu evolution,” but evolving a menu is tricky work.
Sometimes a client would return wanting help with another menu or a line extension or another project of some kind.
Our agency isn’t in the picture anymore, but every couple of months, I find myself reading about a new menu item that they’ve launched.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Intermittent Fasting: What Should I Eat?”

There are restrictions on when you can eat, but not necessarily what you can eat.
Fast for 12 hours a day and eat within a 12-hour window.
Eat your daily food within an 8-hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
“There are no specifications or restrictions about what type or how much food to eat while following intermittent fasting,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.
Purdy adds, “My recommendations wouldn’t be very different from foods that I might normally suggest for improved health-high-fiber, unprocessed, whole foods that offer variety and flavor.” In other words, eat plenty of the below foods and you won’t end up in a hangry rage while fasting.
A study even found that adding a half of an avocado to your lunch may keep you full for hours longer than if you didn’t eat the green gem.3.
That’s not even the best part-a recent study found that people who consumed a diet rich in flavonoids, like those in blueberries and strawberries, had smaller increases in BMI over a 14-year period than those who did not eat berries.
So go ahead and eat your whole grains and venture out of your comfort zone to try farro, bulgur, spelt, kamut, amaranth, millet, sorghum, or freekeh.

The orginal article.

Summary of “A Letter to My Daughter About the Black Magic of Banking”

As you grow up and experience more of the ups and downs of the economy, you will notice a piece of mindbending hypocrisy: during the good times, bankers, entrepreneurs-rich people in general-tend to be against government.
Entrepreneurs need bankers to lend to them, who need entrepreneurs to pay interest.
Bankers need governments to protect them, who need bankers to fuel the economy.
Who has provided the government with the requisite loans? The bankers, of course! And where have the bankers found the money? I hardly need tell you that they have conjured it from thin air.
Why? Because a market society’s bankers need public debt as surely as fish need water to swim in.
When the government borrows, say, $100 million from a banker for, say, a ten-year period, in return it provides the banker with a piece of paper, an IOU, by which it legally guarantees to repay the money in ten years’ time as well as pay an additional yearly amount to the banker in interest-say, $5 million a year.
Bonds are, in bankers’ parlance, “The most liquid of assets.” As such, they lubricate the banking system to keep its cogs and wheels turning.
In bad times, when bankers pick up the phone to the government and demand that the state’s central bank bail them out, it does so not just by creating new money, as we have already seen, but also by issuing even more bonds and using them to borrow more money from other bankers, often foreign ones, to pass on to the local bankers.

The orginal article.

Summary of “This Design Lab Is Making Bespoke Rituals for Atheists”

At the Ritual Design Lab in Silicon Valley, a small team of “Interaction designers” is working to generate new rituals for modern life, with an eye to user experience.
The team’s website offers a Ritual Design Hotline with a tantalizing promise: “You tell us your problem. We will make you a ritual.” Meanwhile, its Ritual Inventory invites you to add any interesting ritual you’ve made or seen to its growing database.
Ritual Design Lab has its roots in Stanford’s Institute of Design, where Ozenc and Hagan both teach.
“Someone may say, ‘I’m just helping somebody who had a bad day at work to process and move on.’ Well, okay, that could be effective-but to what extent are you actually helping the ultimate job of all ritual life, which is to give you the message that it’s not all about you? Rituals that are designed as one-offs for individuals are divorced from that-and that’s very dangerous.”
Finally, an endeavor like Ritual Design Lab has a paradox at its heart.
Gordon-Lennox offers a service that she calls “Ritual accompaniment.” You can hire her to help you design a bespoke ceremony, like a funeral, but expect the process to be both expensive and collaborative.
Ritual Design Lab does not currently charge individuals when creating a ritual for them.
For Steinlauf, the problem isn’t so much with ritual designers making a living off people’s spiritual needs-rabbis do that too-but with what happens to our ritual life in the process.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How the chicken nugget became the true symbol of our era”

Through hard work and prayer, those indigenous people, and enslaved Africans, might find divine redemption through work and perhaps even, one day long in the future, entry into society as equals.
Consider the etymology of the French travail and the Spanish trabajo, each a translation of the English noun “Work”: their Latin root is trepaliare, “To torture, to inflict suffering or agony.” But the way work works has changed.
Poultry workers are paid very little: in the US, two cents for every dollar spent on a fast-food chicken goes to poultry workers.
In Oklahoma, chicken company executives returned to a colonial fusion of work and faith, setting up an addiction treatment centre in 2007, Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery.
At CAAIR, prayer was supplemented with unpaid work on chicken production lines as part of a recovery therapy.
Just as autoworkers on the line assemble simplified, interchangeable parts and fast-food workers manufacture standardised burgers, so did African slaves work specialised jobs in a simplified landscape of sugar monoculture.
Managers of factories were salaried more than the workers, who worked with raw materials acquired through various kinds of peonage and natural resource exploitation, and all of them depended on free domestic labour, usually from women.
Hegemony over workers has been aided by cheap food, and the promise of a chicken in every pot.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio”

“If you were an ambitious young Foreign Service officer after 9/11, you wanted to get sent to some reconstruction team in Afghanistan or Iraq,” says Andrew Weiss, who worked on Russia at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration and now runs the Russia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The longtime Russia hand Stephen Sestanovich, a veteran of the Reagan and Clinton administrations, says there are two kinds of Russia hands – those who came to Russia through political science and those who came to it through literature.
Fried, who served in every administration from Carter to Obama, also thinks there are two kinds of Russia hands, though he draws a different dividing line: There are those, like himself, who “Put Russia in context, held up against the light of outside standards and consequences.” These people tend to be tough on Russia.
There are two kinds of Russia hands, or maybe there are six kinds of Russia hands, or maybe there is an infinite variety of Russia hands.
The decision on NATO was essentially made by early 1994, but it would take some years before the first countries joined the alliance, and in the meantime, relations between Russia and the United States steadily declined: Russia was angered by the NATO bombing of Bosnian Serb positions in 1995, by the American insistence that the Russians stop the sale of nuclear technology to Iran and especially by the 1999 NATO bombing – just a few weeks after the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland finally joined the alliance – of Belgrade.
The main Russia hand in the Bush White House was Thomas Graham, a quiet, intense, scholarly former State Department official who was described by a colleague as “the smartest Russia hand ever produced by the Foreign Service.
If you come to energy, Russia is obviously an important player in global energy markets, but Russia is not the most important player in global energy markets.
The absence of nuance on the Russia question – the embrace of Russia as America’s new-old supervillain – is probably best understood as a symptom of that sickness.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Inside Amazon’s Fake Review Economy”

Jake then copied the link to his review and pasted it into an invite-only Slack channel for paid Amazon reviewers.
Drawn in by easy money and free stuff, they’ve seeded Amazon with fake five-star reviews of LED lights, dog bowls, clothing, and even health items like prenatal vitamins – all meant to convince you that this product is the best and bolster the sales of profiteers hoping to grab a piece of the Amazon Gold Rush.
CEO of ReviewMeta, a site that analyzes Amazon listings, said what he calls “Unnatural reviews” – that is, reviews, that his algorithm indicates might be fake – have returned to the platform.
Two of the more popular groups, Amazon Review Club and US – Amazon Review Club, which had 69,000 and 60,000 members, respectively, were recently shut down, but many more groups remain, with tens of thousands of members apiece.
One product listed in the group, a posture corrector designed to train your back to sit upright, was offering an unusually large commission: a $30 Amazon gift card that included $20 for the product and an extra $10 for the reviewer, who needed to be an Amazon Prime member and write a review that contained images.
The most active reviewers become headhunters, working to recruit /r/slavelabour users into private Discord servers or Slack channels dedicated solely to feeding the Amazon review ecosystem.
In its seller marketplace guidelines, provided to BuzzFeed News by a third-party seller, Amazon says that sellers “May not offer compensation for a review, and you may not review your own products or your competitors’ products.” Sellers can “Ask buyers to write a review in a neutral manner,” without asking specifically for positive reviews, or “Ask reviewers to change or remove their reviews.” And yet all of these behaviors persist.
The company, through lawsuits, human moderators, and algorithms, is trying to keep fake reviews off the site, but the review mills that produce those disingenuous ratings may always be one step ahead of Amazon’s ability to moderate them.

The orginal article.