San Francisco’s Housing Crisis Explained

Housing is expensive because supply is constrained. Local laws deliberately make new construction difficult, slow, rare and expensive. Which suits existing home owners; and tenants in rent-controlled apartments, who don’t want to be evicted by developers. Those categories account for 80% of housing stock in San Francisco, so don’t expect things to change soon, whatever the social and economic pressures (12,900 words)

Google Glassholes: Visionaries Or Victims?

Can Google Glass and other tech wearables ever be fashion icons — the Rolexes of tomorrow? Probably not: “If the battery went dead, would you still want to wear it on your body? That’s our standard for a wearable. If you can’t answer yes to that question, then you’re making a technical curiosity rather than something that’s part of a customer’s outward clothing expression and sense of fashion and style” (4,080 words)

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

Weekend treat. Thanks to Longform for pointing out that this piece, one of the most influential and enjoyable magazine articles ever published, is available ungated on Rolling Stone‘s website. If you haven’t read it before, seize the moment. And if you have, read it again. Just try and stop yourself: “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold …” (22,900 words)

Longevity Is Here To Stay

Seventy is the new fifty. Average life expectancy at birth in industrialised countries has risen to 80, a gain of more than 10 years since 1960. Old people want to work, and date, and keep fit. Work becomes less about making money, and more about staving off isolation, preserving a sense of personal worth. The tendency to have children later in life, fertility permitting, may be seen as a rational adjustment (Metered) (775 words)

Mathematical Model For The Decay Of A Shower Curtain Pick of the day

Proof that there is poetry in the simplest of things. “In our house, we seem to average about two years between shower curtain re-hangings. When we first moved in, my wife was still my girlfriend. We were engaged by the end of the first shower curtain cycle, married by the second, and entered the third cycle as we had our first kid. Will we have a second child before I change the curtains again?” (1,620 words)

John McAfee Answers Your Questions

Software pioneer and self-confessed former drug trafficker tells all. What to do when caught with contraband at a Central American police checkpoint: “Smile. There is no circumstance under which a smile will handicap you when dealing with authorities. Be friendly in your speech and immediately and fully acknowledge your situation, and theirs. This puts them at ease and sets the framework for negotiation” (7,500 words)

London’s Super-Prime Housing Market

Enthralling in all sorts of ways. Writer tours properties for sale and to let in London, pretending to be shopping on behalf of a tax-exiled relative. Includes a glimpse inside One Hyde Park, the Qatari-backed block near Harrods, said to contain the most expensive apartments in London, where the walls of the underground gym are covered in eelskin and “each of the building’s four penthouses has its own panic room” (5,300 words)

Amtrak’s Insane Boarding Rules, Explained

Actually, they aren’t explained; they are held up for mockery, and various ways of getting around them are suggested. As to why Amtrak forces passengers in big-city stations to queue in holding areas for a preliminary ticket inspection before proceeding to platforms, the mystery endures. An enjoyable piece in its own right; recommended here also to signal that Ezra Klein’s new platform, Vox, is up and running (1,000 words)

The Recovery Puzzle

Truly excellent piece of real-world reporting, looking over the shoulder of a project manager in Ohio who is setting up a food-processing plant and looking for people to run it. He expects to be deluged by quality applicants, given the state of the economy. In practice he gets a succession of no-shows and don’t-cares. Lessons for prospective interviewees: Be young, be keen and be early (Metered) (3,300 words)

The Culture Wars Are Over

Legalization and broad acceptance of gay marriage means that the “last great bastion of government-supported traditionalism in Western society has been swept away”. Religion is declining, marijuana is rising, gender roles are equalising. The Culture Wars are over, the liberals have won. In victory they should reach out to conservatives and build a new consensus around families, employment, and religious tolerance (1,130 words)

It’s A Living

Nikil Saval’s Cubed, a “lush, funny, unexpectedly fascinating” history of office work, tells “how authority maintains authority, and how the subjugated stay subjugated”. It captures “the mood of barely controlled panic” that “suffuses most American offices” and animates “every element of overmanaged, time-sucking, keystroke-counting” office routine. This is a “masterpiece”, packed with “weirdly riveting vignettes” (1,845 words)

Advice For A Happy Life

Marry young: “If you wait until your 30s, your marriage is likely to be a merger. If you get married in your 20s, it is likely to be a startup.” Choose a mate with similar personal habits: the key variables are “punctuality, orderliness and thriftiness”. Get religion — any religion. Cultivate ambition in youth, but give it a rest when you hit 40. And watch Groundhog Day often: it’s the equal of Aristotle’s Ethics, but a lot more fun (2,240 words)

The Sexiest Dog In Chicago

A beautiful piece of writing, with a 160-word first sentence that isn’t a letter too long. The dog in question, Paradiso Błekitna Przystan, “known to his loved ones as Ivo”, is a 110-pound cane corso, a breed much admired in medieval Italy and reputed to be “capable of killing not only wild boar but also tame human”. Ivo, however, is a softy and a gentleman: “If you put a tie on him he could work downtown” (2,318 words)

The Brutal Ageism Of Tech Pick of the day

The world’s second-biggest dispenser of Botox is a San Francisco plastic surgeon who helps Silicon Valley males in their forties look a decade or two younger so they fit more credibly into the youth-dominated tech industry. Most venture capitalists won’t back older entrepreneurs: “The cutoff in investors’ heads is 32”. Young bosses want young staff. “It can all add up to a wakeful nightmare for the lower-middle-aged” (7,100 words)

Wearables And Real Estate

One big problem with wearables: They tend to be targeted at your wrists, and you’ve only got so much wrist. “I had my MagicBand on my right hand because my left hand was full. It had my Pebble (of course) and also my Fitbit Force (used for fitness tracking) … Are you really going to wear a cheap fitness tracker on the same wrist as a $20K Rolex? If not, then Rolex actually faces competition from these products” (930 words)

MetaPhone: The Sensitivity Of Telephone Metadata

Stanford study finds that metadata speaks volumes. “The degree of sensitivity took us aback. Participants had calls with Alcoholics Anonymous, gun stores, NARAL Pro-Choice, labor unions, divorce lawyers, STD clinics, a Canadian import pharmacy, strip clubs, and much more. This was not a hypothetical parade of horribles. These were simple inferences about real phone users that could trivially be made on a large scale” (1,200 words)

Bruce Sterling’s Closing Remarks At SXSW 2014

Sterling’s annual closing speech at the SXSW festival of technology and music in Austin, Texas, has become a festival institution, a rambling improvised tour-d’horizon of everything trending in global geek culture. This year’s rant includes generous admixtures of nostalgia, European and American politics, black-hat hacking, sci-fi and surveillance. “The future is about old people, in big cities, afraid of the sky” (6,540 words)

How The Elevator Transformed America

The elevator is “responsible for shaping modern life in ways that most people simply don’t appreciate”. Without the elevator we would have no high-rise buildings, no penthouse apartments, no high-density cities. The elevator has a sociology all its own: It is “a staple of romantic comedies, office dramas, and crime stories in which the plot requires two people to be suddenly and unexpectedly thrust together” (2,000 words)

Are Jews A Dog People Or A Cat People? Pick of the day

Dogs were often “held in contempt” in biblical Israelite society due to their “penchant for dining on blood and carcasses”. But cats ranked even lower. They are “not mentioned at all in the Bible”, perhaps because “Jewish attitudes were functional”, and cats performed no recognised service, whereas dogs could hunt and guard. “There might have been good dogs and bad dogs, but cats at best were merely suffered” (2,620 words)

My Life As A Retail Worker

White House reporter fired by Politico hits bottom, takes a “nasty, brutish and poor” job serving in a sporting goods store. “Having once supervised an 80-member news division of a major metropolitan newspaper, the first weeks on my new job triggered a self-esteem meltdown … As my past life faded over the horizon, I started to take a weird, internal pride in my crappy menial job, almost against my will” (3,840 words)

How Silence Became A Luxury Product

Technology has “increased our perceived need for silence and created (or at least improved) the means of attaining it”. From quiet cars on trains, to noise-cancelling headphones, to super-quiet Lexus cars, “there has never been quite so great a premium placed on silence”. We crave quiet as a way “to push back against the gnat-like ticking of technology”. Silence, especially in cities, has become “the ultimate luxury” (1,800 words)

Project Flame

College freshman has brainwave: Start a computer dating service. But it is 1966, four decades before OKCupid, and computers are hard to come by. “I had borrowed the IBM cards from the registrar’s office, and I had no intention of finding a computer to feed them into. Instead, I took the cards belonging to men and those belonging to women, shuffled them all up together, and made matches by chance”. It did not go well (1,160 words)

Get Ready To Roboshop

Short, action-packed interview with Gibu Thomas, Walmart’s head of mobile, about Walmart’s smartphone apps, which help customers find what they want when they are inside the store. “You could search for toothpicks, let’s say, and it would show you all the different brands of toothpicks, what aisle they’re located in, and a map so you can get to them really quickly. People took to it like ducks to water” (1,200 words)

How Much My Novel Cost Me

Essay on the writing life, which broadens into an essay on life in general. Lyrical and touching throughout. Young New York writer gets big advance for memoir that tanks; fails to become Lena Dunham; ends up broke and borrowing from boyfriend; sheds illusions; but (happy-ish ending) completes first novel. “I don’t know if I will ever have any of the things I once considered necessary and automatic parts of a complete adult life” (5,550 words)

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