Amazon, Girlhood, Polysemy, Dark Money, Robert Caro, Sugar

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I Have A Copy Of Amazon

Paul Ford | New Republic | 19th February 2016

"I have a copy of Amazon. Meaning that, on my hard drive there is a massive chunk of Amazon’s product and reviews database — a listing of nine million or so products and 80 million or so reviews taken from 1996 to 2014. The names of all the books, their sales ranks, their categories. Every pair of pants for kids. All the books about Hitler; all the books about snakes. All the different Lego sets. Whatever" (1,700 words)

“I Couldn’t Decide If We Should Live Or Die”

Fati Yayaha & Jennifer Koons | Development Set | 9th February 2016

To be married and pregnant at the age of 14 is common enough for girls in Niger. So, too, is death in childbirth. "During my pregnancy, I did not see a doctor because he lived far away and I could not go without my husband. But he did not want to take me. I was scared because my mom and sister died when they had their babies. But I did not want to see a doctor either. I had never seen one before. So that scared me too" (1,500 words)

Polysemy And Maturity

Geoffrey Pullum | Lingua Franca | 19th February 2016

Is there a word in the English language with only one meaning? Perhaps, but it's hard to think what that word might be. Even the "dinky little grammatical words" — all, the — have multiple meanings which linguists differentiate using "technical notations that you probably don’t want to look at". The the in "the moon has no atmosphere", for example, is doing a different job from the the in "the more the merrier" (790 words)

The Koch Brothers’ New Brand

Bill McKibben | New York Review of Books | 19th February 2016

Review of Jane Mayer's Dark Money, an "epic" account of the Koch brothers. Their father, Fred, built oil refineries for Stalin and Hitler. Then, "despite or because of the original source of his fortune, he became a fervent anti-Communist and one of the eleven founding members of the John Birch Society". The family story is "like something out of a Robert Ludlum novel, connected to the darkest forces of the twentieth century" (3,800 words)

Robert Caro Wonders What New York Is Going To Become

Christopher Robbins | Gothamist | 17th February 2016

Caro explains his fascination with Robert Moses. "I gradually came to understand that because he had done this thing that no one else had ever done, gotten all this power without being elected, if I could find out how he did it and explain how he did it, I would be explaining something that no one else understood, which is: How does power really work in cities? What’s the raw, bottom, naked essence of real power?" (5,100 words)

Parents Won’t Believe Me, But …

Tom Chivers | Spectator | 18th February 2016

The 'sugar rush' is a myth, a conjecture dating from 1978 subsequently debunked in double-blind trials: "They gave the kids sugar or placebo, then asked parents whether [the kids] seemed hyperactive. The parents were unable to do better than guessing. The same happened when teachers were asked. If parents can’t tell whether their kids have had sugar, it’s time to admit that the sugar-rush effect is not real" (1,000 words)

Video of the day: How To Land A 737

What to expect: "The first thing you are going to want to do is to put on the pilot's headset ..." (11'01")

Thought for the day

People tend to be extremely similar in their dumb interests and wildly different in their noble interests
David Foster Wallace (

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