Short And To The Point Is Going Back To School!

High School specifically

This Week in Our Dumb World

The Great High School Imposter

There’s been an awful lot of politics in the newsletter lately and good god, but I’m tired of reading about politics and our crumbling democracy.


I’d like to introduce you to the 19-year-old Ukranian who came for college and instead changed his birth certificate and started high school.

The way he'd envisioned it, he would show up to the States and save some money and enroll in a university that very fall. But he'd assumed the local colleges would cost what they do in Ukraine, a couple thousand bucks a year. He couldn't believe that they were asking for 10, 20 times that amount. That was more than he could make working full-time. And if he had to work full-time, where did school fit in? The paradox left him cold. The impossible bind left him panicked. He was already so lonely—no friends, work all day—and for what? The summer was flying, he was expected to depart in September. By mid-July, he realized anxiously, he was rapidly running out of time…

Which was around when an idea began to take shape between Artur Samarin and his new friends Stephayne McClure-Potts and Michael Potts. Later, Artur would relay the sequence of events as follows, although Stephayne and Michael dispute their alleged motivations—and only the three who sat at the table during those dinners in the summer of 2012 know the honest origins of the plot. And so: In order to help him out with his ultimate dream, Stephayne and Michael said they'd look into adopting Artur. They took his passport, filled out forms. They brought Artur along to a meeting with an attorney across the river. If they went through with it, they explained to him, he'd be able to stay in the U.S. To Artur, the gesture seemed unconscionably kind.

One thing they would ask of him in return, he says they said, was that Artur agree to change his age. He was 19 at the time and thus too old, they explained, to be adopted. If they were to go through with this, he would have to change his birth date. And if he was going to change his birth date anyway, how would he feel about claiming to be a full five years younger than he was? Further, if they were to do him this solid, they would need for him to enroll in the local high school, too. With a dependent enrolled in the public-school system, they would receive a small payout from the Social Security Administration and attendant tax benefits, which would amount to fair recompense, he says they said, for the legal cover they were granting him.

The summer days were long, but they were running short. Artur knew that this was his one shot at sticking around. His one chance at engineering school and the moon-shot future that might launch. And so he agreed. They asked him to fork over the two grand he'd saved that summer, to help with the adoption paperwork. The last day of his J-1 visa came and went, and by the third week of September, he strolled through the neoclassical columns that stood up the front of the school, ready as he could be for his first day at Harrisburg High.

The Hacker Who Took Down A Country

This is immediately interesting because it’s a hack who destroyed huge systems. But it’s also interesting to re-emphasize just how dangerous a place the internet is and how fragile our systems are in the face of advancing technology.

The attack against Liberia began in October 2016. More than a half-million security cameras around the world tried to connect to a handful of servers used by Lonestar Cell MTN, a local mobile phone operator, and Lonestar’s network was overwhelmed. Internet access for its 1.5 million customers slowed to a crawl, then stopped.

The technical term for this sort of assault is distributed denial of service, or DDoS. Crude but effective, a DDoS attack uses an army of commandeered machines, called a botnet, to simultaneously connect to a single point online. This botnet, though, was the biggest ever witnessed anywhere, let alone in Liberia, one of the poorest countries in Africa. The result was similar to what would happen if 500,000 extra cars joined the New Jersey Turnpike one morning at rush hour. While most DDoS attacks last only moments, the assault on Lonestar dragged on for days. And since Liberia has had virtually no landlines since the brutal civil war that ended in 2003, that meant half the country was cut off from bank transactions, farmers couldn’t check crop prices, and students couldn’t Google anything. In the capital of Monrovia, the largest hospital went offline for about a week. Infectious disease specialists dealing with the aftermath of a deadly Ebola outbreak lost contact with international health agencies.

Eugene Nagbe, Liberia’s minister for information, was in Paris on business when the crisis began. He struggled to marshal a response, unable to access his email or a reliable phone connection. Then his bank card stopped working. On Nov. 8, with hundreds of thousands of people still disconnected, Nagbe went on French radio to appeal for help. “The scale of the attack tells us that this is a matter of grave concern, not just to Liberia but to the global community that is connected to the internet,” he said. The onslaught continued. No one seemed to know why, but there was speculation that the hack was a test run for something bigger, perhaps even an act of war.

The Great WAG War of 2019

First of all, you should know that “WAG” is an acronym used to refer to wives and girlfriends of high-profile sportspersons. They are one of the weirder corners of extreme british celebrity culture. Now, I’ve seen claims that the first reference is in the early 2000’s, but I swear to god it dates to the 90s. It’s a very 90s Briatin kind of term. Feels very S Club 7.

I’m very old now.

AAAAAAAAAAaaanyways, I’m explaining why they exist so that you can venture into this story of social media, class, internet culture, and celebrity with some grounding about why these two people being mad at each other is both newsworthy and insightful about modern culture.

(also, it’s very funny and EXTREMELY England)

As for the wider cultural context, let me be super clear: this is about heritage Wags coming together and closing ranks against second-gen interlopers. I don’t care if Rebekah is four years older than Coleen: if she wasn’t in Baden-Baden she’ll never really understand. The 2006 World Cup was the ’Nam of It-bags and hair extensions, and every true Wag succubus was forged in its fires. It was where I saw Victoria Beckham wearing high heels IN a swimming pool. It was where I watched Elen Rives dance on a bar table singing I Will Survive. It was where a slightly delayed flight forced Victoria to observe to the FA: “A dog gets better treatment than this.” It was where Sven-Göran Eriksson was still giving players – billeted in another hotel – what was known in tabloid terms as a “nookie pass”. THAT is heritage. You can’t buy it, even if – as Rebekah’s denial put it – “not being funny but I don’t need the money”. Fast-forward to the present day, and the Baden-Baden Wag fellowship – though dispersed – remain bonded by their shared experience. You’ll know the trash is really being taken out when Alex Gerrard flings open the door of her Overfinch Range Rover in Glasgow, where Stevie G now manages, to reveal vintage Juicy Couture tracksuit bottoms and a tiny T-shirt reading: “It’s………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

As for Rebekah…. well, it’s not looking great, let’s be honest. She’s got Nicola McLean batting for her, though seasoned Wag-watchers would class Nicola as “a complete ‘who?’”. But Rebekah denies it utterly, so we’ll see what the crack team of IT experts turn up. My guess is that we might learn of some assistant – since departed – who must be behind it all. Then again it does feel hugely remiss that no one has yet suggested Russian interference. In so many ways, Putin getting all up in Wag Instagram would be the highest level of his troll strategy – the surest indication yet that he truly means to destroy our way of life. If I were Rebekah, I would feel inclined to suggest that the choice of platform lends significant weight to that theory. Only this week, the US Senate investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election released the second volume of its report, which said: “On the basis of engagement and audience following measures, the Instagram social media platform was the most effective tool used by the [Russian-backed] Internet Research Agency to conduct its information operations campaign.”

On the other hand, it would be the only disinformation campaign to sow unity as opposed to discord. Not that this has been noticed by Truss, who brought up the story in a speech on Wednesday night. “There’s been a massive fallout between some very influential figures in our country,” the trade secretary told her audience, “that has divided the nation.” It has united it, but go on. “There’s been finger-pointing, there’s been blame-shifting, and there has been denials. But enough about Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy. Now for those of you who don’t know, those are footballers’ wives – ”

Client Feedback On The Creation Of The Earth

On one level, it’s very funny to read this feedback on the creation of the earth.

On the other hand, if you are someone who (in a professional setting) often find themselves preparing reports and receiving client feedback then it is possible that this article will give you crippling flashbacks.

And yes, I did spend a fair bit of time trying to find the silliest possible “client feedback” picture that someone would use in a powerpoint.

6 – Seas teeming with life is fine, but again, we need to reduce the sea. This is a showstopper for us.

7 – Are the winged birds final, or placeholder? Some kind of weird stuff going on with those. Just want to get some clarification before giving more feedback.

8 – Can we get more livestock and wild animals that move along the ground according to their kinds? Again, the passion points for our target users (slide eighteen) are ground and animals that move along the ground. Whatever we can do to increase the amount of ground will go a long way toward converting our users from passive consumers into brand evangelists.


Because of course.

Short and To The Point runs smooth like an old tractor

A sweet sweet 1970s tractor

This Week in Our Dumb World

Two Textbooks and Two Americas

I’m not saying that the internet and cable news haven’t damaged our politics and our brains (because they clearly have), but reading through the wild differences in these two textbooks, it becomes easy to see where our two different political worlds develop and how deeply ingrained they become.

The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.

Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.

In a country that cannot come to a consensus on fundamental questions — how restricted capitalism should be, whether immigrants are a burden or a boon, to what extent the legacy of slavery continues to shape American life — textbook publishers are caught in the middle. On these questions and others, classroom materials are not only shaded by politics, but are also helping to shape a generation of future voters.

Conservatives have fought for schools to promote patriotism, highlight the influence of Christianity and celebrate the founding fathers. In a September speech, President Trump warned against a “radical left” that wants to “erase American history, crush religious liberty, indoctrinate our students with left-wing ideology.”

The left has pushed for students to encounter history more from the ground up than from the top down, with a focus on the experiences of marginalized groups such as enslaved people, women and Native Americans.

The books The Times analyzed were published in 2016 or later and have been widely adopted for eighth and 11th graders, though publishers declined to share sales figures. Each text has editions for Texas and California, among other states, customized to satisfy policymakers with different priorities.

This Is Why Your Holiday Travel Is Awful

  1. This is a fantastic look at the myriad structural reasons that it is so damn difficult for any local government to develop and improve large infrastructure projects. Yes, money is always a problem, but it’s fascinating to look at all the barriers that have been erected and why.

  2. I will read anything that embraces Robert Moses slander. He is one of the secret villains of American history and his legacy deserves every hit that can be written.

Since the mid-1960s—really since the opening of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island—no major new piece of public infrastructure has been built within the five boroughs of New York City. New York has managed to rebuild when bridges and subways failed and, in the case of the World Trade Center, when buildings were destroyed by terrorists. A handful of new subway stops have opened on Second Avenue, and the 7 Line was extended into Manhattan’s Far West Side. Gov. Andrew Cuomo managed to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. And he’s rebuilding terminals at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. But those changes are a pittance of what New York once built year upon year, and just a fraction of the public infrastructure a booming city demands. The subway system is falling apart. Entire neighborhoods are transit deserts. Century-old tunnels that connect New York and New Jersey are beginning to fail.

Why aren’t there new subway lines connecting impoverished corners of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens? Why does freight traveling from New Jersey to Long Island travel by truck across Manhattan and not by rail? Why does the Port Authority Bus Terminal languish amid calls for an upgrade? Why does luxury housing sprout like weeds while institutions that serve the middle and working classes are left to languish? Why, as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote in a letter to Gov. George Pataki in 1995, does it seem as though America has “lost the touch for famous things”?

Penn Station, like so much of the region’s infrastructure, remains in tatters today not because men like Robert Moses are no longer on the scene, but because the system in which Moses operated has been replaced by an entirely new, and remarkably dysfunctional, architecture. Beneath America’s deep frustration with government is something else: a deep-seated aversion to power. Progressives resolved decades ago to prevent the public from being bulldozed by another Robert Moses—and the project to diffuse power to the public has succeeded. But the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. The left’s zeal to hamstring government has helped to burnish the right’s argument that government would mess up a one-car parade. The newprotectionserected to guard against Moses’ second coming have condemned new generations to live in civic infrastructure that is frozen in time.

Everyone Wants A 40-Year-Old Tractor

So… I will never buy a Tesla.

If you want one, that’s totally your business! They’re cool! They don’t use gas! No judgments.

But, all that said, I will never buy a Tesla.

This largely traces back to the first time I ever sat in a Tesla X. I marveled at all the design features (the wing doors are so goddamn cool), and my proud owner friend turned on the car and showed me the dashboard. It is a giant touchscreen pad. It was beautiful, and my brain screamed as alarm bells immediately went off in my head.

I love my iPad. It is a fabulous piece of technology that serves as an integral part of my work and leisure life. I carry it around with me like an appendage. Also, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Sometimes the screen is greasy, and sometimes it’s just buggy, sometimes the recent software update doesn’t quite work. But that’s fine. There’s other things I can use. It’ll be fine in a bit. I don’t care that sometimes it’s buggy because it’s a tablet and not the thing that I’m driving myself and/or my family around in.

Because Tesla’s are sleek and wonderful cars that are just super elaborate hardware systems for very complex software, they are the fanciest iPad. Now, this has enormous benefits. It allows your car to be constantly updated with every new program and development. Better parking assist? New maps? Better traffic and navigational AI? These all arrive immediately without a trip to the dealer. So that’s great.

But I don’t trust any software so much that I want it to brick my car when it gets buggy.

Not to mention the fact that you can never really own a car that is this software dependant. The company can always decide to hold you hostage over the next software update. They can always decide that mandatory software updates now cost one, five, or ten thousand dollars. Is this my little paranoia corner? Probably. But if you’re asking me to trust any company to turn down that money forever, then you’re far more optimistic than I am.

And if you think that this is all me being ridiculous and surely this brilliant company has thought all this stuff though, I would remind you that Tesla’s don’t come with spare tires. At all.

Also, go look at that ridiculous truck.

On a related note, farmers are buying 40-year-old tractors because they work better and aren’t software and dependant on complex (and expensive) professional maintenance to fix every problem.

Tractors manufactured in the late 1970s and 1980s are some of the hottest items in farm auctions across the Midwest these days — and it’s not because they’re antiques.

Cost-conscious farmers are looking for bargains, and tractors from that era are well-built and totally functional, and aren’t as complicated or expensive to repair as more recent models that run on sophisticated software.

“It’s a trend that’s been building. It’s been interesting in the last couple years, which have been difficult for ag, to see the trend accelerate,” said Greg Peterson, the founder of Machinery Pete, a farm equipment data company in Rochester with a website and TV show.

“There’s an affinity factor if you grew up around these tractors, but it goes way beyond that,” Peterson said. “These things, they’re basically bulletproof. You can put 15,000 hours on it and if something breaks you can just replace it.”

Space Jam Copyright 1996

The story of how the Space Jam website is fun, but it’s not as fun as going to the 1996 Space Jam website WHICH IS STILL WORKING.

Yes, you should read the article, but also you should take a trip to the 1996 internet and marvel at how far we have come.

By that fall, Buckley’s crew was a fully operational, smooth-running gaggle of coding revolutionaries. Their office bible wasn’t the notes they received from Warner Bros.’ consumer products division but rather Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML in 14 Days, an indispensable 800-page beast of a book that became more tattered and dog-eared as time went on. (Tritter still has his personal copy on his home office bookshelf.) They had mastered the basics, Twister had fostered their creative spirit, and once Braun hired her fall design intern, a University of Cincinnati undergrad named Andrew Stachler, the core team was now assembled and ready to tackle its most ambitious project to date: Space Jam. 

To hype the site, Braun and Tritter designed a placeholder site, done up in the style of an old subway station, with Space Jam movie posters adorning the background and a subway car full of Looney Tunes characters. It proved to be exceedingly difficult to execute – “a nightmare,” Tritter remembers – with its meticulously coded tables and pixel spacers. Alas, the placeholder page has been lost to history.

But the rest of the actual Space Jam site, which is what you see today, was a more gratifying experience for Buckley’s team. The opening galaxy of icons is both minimalist and cartoonish but with functional site section names: Jam Central for movie facts and filmmaker bios, Lunar Tunes for soundtrack info, Stellar Souvenirs for sound clips and screen savers, and so on. Even today, with its basic HTML, pre-broadband file sizes, and Flash-free architecture, the site is easy to navigate, even on a mobile phone. The movie clips, encoded in QuickTime, are somewhat grainy but still viewable. Nothing was designed to still work after 19 years; it was simply designed to work.

Bill Miner

Yes, it’s cool that he was a notorious “gentleman robber” in the wild west.


That’s probably the weirdest and coolest legacy that anyone could hope for.

and that’s before we get to his awesome mustache.

Short and To The Point is sorry for shouting

well... sorry (not sorry)

The funny thing is that I was totally going to do a “links of the year” post, but it turns out that it’s way WAY more work than just churning out a new one.

So I will do links of the year at the end of January, just as God intended.

Also, sorry for starting off the year by breaking the rules about politics of the moment, but it’s either this or scream into the void.

This Week in Our Dumb World

Remember When Literally All Of This Happened Already?

I can’t say that I was truly opposed to the Iraq war. I like to think that I was. I try and remember myself as being opposed to the war throughout. I know that eventually, I was staunchly opposed to it and attended my first protest march ever in opposition to it.

But I also kind of remember the relentless drumbeat of propaganda working on me. I can remember sitting in a hotel lobby smoking cigarettes and reading a USA today on a work break and thinking “well, maybe…”. I don’t remember how long that maybe lasted or how deeply it was felt, but I remember it and I shake my head at myself.

20 years later, I’m not quite so forgiving that people want to run it back. I’m also not forgiving of how few people paid a price for their staunch advocacy for a foreign conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people with no clear goal and no resolution at hand.

Oh, except for all the people who got rich.

I honestly wonder how many people realize that eventually, we leave Iraq when they (probably violently) kick us out?

Yes, I know that we have successfully stepped back from the brink for a few hours (I have no more confidence than a few hours worth), but for the last week, we witnessed how little we have learned from our 20 years at war.

Which, all in all, makes it pretty fucking incredible to see, in 2020, none other than former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer and senior advisor Karl Rove, two of the most brazenly dishonest and thoroughly discredited mouthpieces for that disastrous war effort, appearing on TV news to offer authoritative analysis and justification for the country’s latest doomed and ruinous misadventure in slaughtering people in the Middle East — in this case, the assassination of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general Qasem Soleimani, reportedly carried out last week via an unmanned drone airstrike against his convoy of vehicles outside Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. To see performatively evenhanded NPR turn for sober expert commentary to the executive of a company that sells hardware to the military. To hear the addled, flamboyantly dishonest president and his hilariously discredited goons justify their act of aggression by hinting vaguely about having thwarted plans to kill Americans, and to see the New York Timespass these claims along with only the mildest of challenges. To see a discredited Iraq War cheerleader granted space in Friday morning’s Times to predict, yet again, that yet another act of American imperial violence in the Middle East will yield no adverse consequences. To hear establishment Democratic leaders, including some of those vying for the party’s presidential nomination, once more raisingtoothlessproceduralqualmsabout whose signatures must be sought before the United States may project its mechanized death-dealing might 6,000 miles across the surface of the Earth to single out and kill whichever faraway people it deems unworthy of life, while simultaneously signalling broad agreement with both the broader concept and the specific choice of target. To read that thousands of American troops will be deployed to the region, but to be told by the same class of Knowers as before that this is at most a limited and well-defined engagement and not the red dawn of yet another hopeless, endless, pointless mass bloodletting.

Thousands of College Kids Paid to Work for a Viral Party Kingpin. What Could Go Wrong?

I try not to be too judgmental of influencer culture or the places that it exists. Partially this is because I do not want to feel old and there is nothing older than complaining about the damn kids these days. Partially, it is because I try to be forgiving of stupid kid things as I hope people are forgiving of my stupid kid things.

But all that said, one of the nastiest parts of influencer culture is the space that is has created for mass exploitation of kids who just want to make a little money and be low key campus famous.

All that said, looking at pictures of college parties now (as I did to find the cover photo) has confirmed that I both feel and am approximately one million years old. I don’t recommend it.

In the fall of 2018, Mr. Shukes paid $300 to I’m Shmacked, thinking it would be “a decent investment” and became part of what Mr. Toufanian called his “college ambassador program.” 

That program, which officially started in 2016, was pitched to students simply: pay $45 to $500 and become the designated representative of the company at your school. 

The designation meant running an I’m Shmacked Instagram account that was school specific — @imshmackedpurdue, say, or @imshmackedcornell — and if a post or video went viral, it would often be reposted to the main I’m Shmacked handle, which had 1.2 million followers. Students were told they could make money through online merchandise stores, ad placements and by charging other students to be featured on the accounts.

According to a company spreadsheet from 2017 and interviews with several people who used to work with Mr. Toufanian, at least 3,600 college kids took the company up on this offer. (Mr. Toufanian did not respond to an email sent requesting comments for this article. Mr. Ray, who left the company by 2016, could not be reached.)

There were some red flags. In 2013, after I’m Shmacked sold hundreds of tickets to University of Delaware students for a party it failed to reserve a site for, police had to be called in to quell the disturbance. 

In 2016, students at Santa Clara University demanded refunds from the company after it raised more than $30,000 for a concert and party that never took place. In 2017, I’m Shmacked canceled a Halloween party in Utah the night before it was set to take place, leaving the events company it had teamed with on the hook for thousands of dollars.

Mr. Toufanian had also proved to be a loose cannon. In 2014 he threatened a Business Insider reporter with petitions to fire and deport her, and tweeted that she should be “prepping her anus” for an attack.

The 10 Least Consequential Athletes of The Decade

  1. It’s Jon Bois so it gets shared instantly

  2. I remember all of these names (except for hockey because no one gives a shit about hockey. Yes, even you hockey fan), but almost nothing about them.

  3. Yes, there is an obvious exception.

  4. The second exception is Glenn Winston who is here for his (limited) professional football exploits, but I remember him for his multiple violent crimes at Michigan State and for the time he went from jail to spring practice.

  5. As with all nondescript professional athletes, it’s amazing to consider that these inconsequential professionals are among the most skilled people to ever play their sport. The average inconsequential professional basketball/hockey/football/baseball/etc player is mind blowingly good to even make it that far.

  6. Sports are weird.

After assaulting a hockey player while in college, spending six months in jail, and going undrafted, Glenn Winston had found his way into the NFL. A running back by trade, he appeared mostly as a special-teamer for the Browns before finally receiving his first career carry on Dec. 13, 2015.

Some GIFs make a sound. This one says, “bloop!”

The 49ers’ Ian Williams doesn’t just strip the ball, he punches it out like a golfer trying to negotiate a sand trap. It shot eight yards downfield. Fumbling away one’s first career carry is bad enough, but this ensured an extra indignity. Because the ball wasn’t recovered until it was eight yards downfield, this play went in the books as a negative-eight-yard run, a result that usually implies a ball carrier unwilling to cut his losses or a catastrophic jet sweep. Winston didn’t even get the satisfaction of trying something crazy. He bet $10 and lost $100.

Winston never carried the ball again, cementing his career line: one carry, negative-8 yards, one fumble. Among pure running backs, it is the lowest career yardage total in the 100-year history of the NFL.

Also among pure running backs, Winston is one of just four players to fumble away their only career rushing attempt. Another of those four, incredibly, was Winston’s teammate. Fullback Malcolm Johnson had been placed on injured reserve a few days prior, and would go on to drop his only carry the following season.

This was a meaningless late-season game featuring two teams that finished last in their respective divisions.

It was reported Winston suffered a concussion on this play.

When Japanese Mascots Get Stuck



Don’t pretend like you don’t need some.

Short and to The Point still remembers everything about baseball

Especially the 80s!

This Week in Our Dumb World

Big Calculator: How Texas Instruments Monopolized Math Class

  1. This is a crazy thing that I never thought about because I was bad at math and generally did not rise to the levels of math that required these kinds of calculators.

  2. This is a terrific example of the kind of subtle discrimination that’s baked into our educational system. How are schools in low-income areas supposed to hand every kid a $100 calculator? What do you think it does the achievement gap that only kids who can afford their own calculator can do their math homework at home?

  3. Similarly, it’s insane that the onus is on the teachers to shell out for these calculators for their classes. It is one example of the myriad ways that we shove things off on to teachers and expect them to just deal with it.

This profit margin is likely a conservative estimate, a former employee in Texas Instruments’ calculator division told me. “As a former teacher, I was appalled at the pricing, not only for educators but for the families who were forced to pay inflated prices for the damn things,” she told me. “The margin is incredible. I can’t verify the exact numbers, but the margin was like 85% 90%.” In comparison, PC manufacturers like HP, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, and Acer have profit margins below 3%. (Texas Instruments did not return a request for comment for this story.)

Texas Instruments was not the first to go to market with its commercially viable graphing calculators — Casio preceded it. But Texas Instruments was able to capitalize on its relationship with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to ensure its calculators ended up in classrooms across the country. In 1980, the council recommended that “mathematics programs [should] take full advantage of calculators… at all grade levels.” Throughout the decade, Texas Instruments worked closely with the council to develop its first calculator in hopes of becoming the educational standard.

It started with Connecticut. In 1986, the state became the first to require a graphing calculator on state-mandated exams. The Connecticut School Board argued that calculators would let students solve more challenging problems. In 1988, Chicago Public Schools gave a free calculator to every student, beginning in the fourth grade. New York followed suit in 1991 when he state first allowed calculators for its Regents exams; by 1992, it required them. Then the College Board let students use calculators on Advanced Placement exams, specifically calculus, in 1983, then reversed its policy a year later, explaining that it was banning calculators because it wasn’t fair to students who didn’t have them. But a decade later, it mandated calculators on the tests. In 1994, it allowed calculators to be used for the SAT as well. Teachers I spoke to said that some major textbooks feature illustrations of Texas Instruments–series calculators alongside the text, so students can use their Texas Instruments calculator with the lesson plan, emphasizing how deeply interwoven Texas Instruments remains with the educational hegemony.

The Smartest Guys in the Clubhouse

I used to love baseball.

LOVE baseball. I used to buy the annual stat books and just devour all the numbers held within. There was a red book for the American League and a green book for the National League. I absolutely had to have them both every single year. I would force my parents to take me to multiple book stores to find the red book and the green book every year. I had so many baseball cards, and none of them were ever in plastic sleeves. They were all to be handled and ordered and organized in ways that optimized lineups and created perfect teams.

As I got older, this love only deepened as I discovered sabermetrics and advanced stats, and whole new worlds opened up to me. I spent forever learning how those stats were calculated and comparing them to the far fetched ideas I’d had when I was a kid. As I mentioned above, I was a profoundly disinterested math student, so I went to the damn trouble of learning more math to understand what was happening.

I wrote about baseball. For a tiny bit of money, I wrote about fantasy baseball, and in my spare time, I wrote whole lengthy essays about baseball and baseball history. God, I love baseball history. My bookshelf is still full of baseball history.

When I was little, my swim team would go to a Tigers game every year. That day was easily my third favorite day of every year behind my birthday and Christmas. If push comes to shove, there were definitely years that I would have preferred the baseball game to my birthday. I can remember seeing Lou Whitaker hit a game-winning home run out of old Tiger stadium. I saw Cecil Fielder hit home run numbers 40 and 41 off of Dave Stewart. I knew all that from memory.

But I don’t watch baseball anymore. Not really. I watch the playoffs if a team I like is in it or if twitter tells me that something interesting happened. Now, part of that is just life and growing up. You get older. You don’t have as much free time, so some hobbies fade away. Of course, some of that disinterest is due to the game devolving into something uniform and monotonous. A game of home runs and strikeouts. I acknowledge all of this, but if you ask me what really killed my interest in baseball, it is the relentless shift of the game from being about the players to being about the executives.

So much coverage of baseball is from the perspective of ownership that it’s just not fun anymore. Every contract that pays a player is a bad contract. Every team that isn’t perfectly placed to win a title tears it all down in the name of “efficiency” and other corporate buzzwords. I loved the romance of baseball and the romance of baseball numbers. They tell such amazing stories and now those numbers are just being used to grind up teams and spit out profits. I just don’t enjoy it anymore. The reality is that none of that efficiency is necessary. It’s just a way for rich people to make more money and call it smart.

I’m not sure that the Astros are that much worse than any other team in baseball. I don’t know that their organizational culture is worse or their cheating more rampant than any other team in the league. But I’m glad that we are finally talking about how the suits stole baseball from the players. I don’t know that it will fix anything, but I’m hopefull a little sunshine will help.

But then I’m (still) a Tigers fan and they just lost 114 games, so maybe optimism can wait till next year.

What emerged after those years of meticulous and intentional awfulness was something like the perfect contemporary baseball roster—deep and talented and anchored by veteran stars who stubbornly refused to decline, but primarily built around and upon young players the team drafted during its years at the bottom. Those players would for years continue to be wildly underpaid relative to their production, thanks to the way MLB’s salary structure works. That last cost-saving data point is the sort of thing that baseball fans have been conditioned during the arbitrage-obsessed Moneyball era to regard as an objective good; executives and owners tend to use words like “flexibility” or “sustainability” to describe this approach, and many fans have come to adopt the same market-savvy argot. Prioritizing that sort of thing and using that sort of language were things that Luhnow did very well.

Luhnow was a true McKinsey consultant’s consultant, which is to say that he was secretive and a little smug. He reliably kept outsiders—a group that included, for years of his tenure, even the players in his employ—on a need-to-know basis when it came to the work that he and a “decision sciences” team were doing as they collected and parsed every available bead of data that the game could provide. He was so devoted to efficiency that he engaged consultants from McKinsey to audit the organization (and, inevitably, to disrupt the org chart) every year. The collective mission was to ensure that the Astros brand of Moneyball would stay artfully (yet efficiently!) poised on the bleeding edge of managerially minded innovation. 

All perfectly bloodless in the management consulting way, then, but not without some carnage. There were stories that the front office culture Luhnow had created in Houston was not just cutthroat and paranoid, but increasingly high-handed and stridently amoral. Luhnow overruled junior staffers and acquired a talented young closer at a discount while that pitcher served a 75-game suspension for domestic violence; he pushed unsuccessfully to sign Luke Heimlich, a college pitcher whose prospect status evaporated when it was revealed that he was a convicted sex offender who preyed on minors. But the results spoke for themselves.

ADDITIONAL READING: Joe Posnanski writing about how we need to rethink what a “bad contract” means is a must-read. (Requires subscription to The Athletic)

Why Are So Many Gen Z Kids Becoming Furries?

Yes, this is weird. But it’s also pretty fun to read about people finding their weirdness. Finding their own weird home.

Also, if you’re growing up in a world filled with social media that pressures kids to lead Instagram worthy lives, who wouldn’t want to put on a mask and be someone else for a while?

“A lot of kids will be on TikTok because it’s very catered toward a young [demographic] and the content is short and kids have a very short attention span,” he says. “A lot of times they’ll see a furry and they’ll want to see what it’s about, and they’ll join the fandom that way.” (Indeed, Emily, the nine-year-old deer, found the fandom on Tiktok when she was eight; at the time we spoke, she was waiting to see Tequila Shepherd, a British German Shepherd with 178,000 followers.)

In most respects, furry Tiktok isn’t that much different from normie Tiktok, with furries doing dances or comedy videos to various popular audios. But simply by virtue of its time constraints and its hyper-addicting algorithm, it’s less personality-driven than, say, YouTube, which is also what draws furries concerned about protecting their identities to the platform. “Kids love Thor and Iron Man and Marvel and all that stuff. But they never wanna know who the actors are. They just care about the characters,” says Doppio, a 21-year-old furry Tiktok user. “They just know what they like.”

Many furry content creators on Tiktok also make the fandom seem less threatening to parents, who may be concerned about the sexualized aspects of the fandom. “Before TikTok got big, parents [were] scared to bring their kids to a furry convention,” says Barry, 25, a yellow-and-black dragon, and former U.S. Air Force field technician. “If one parents sees a TikTok and they say, ‘this isn’t too bad,’ then they tell another parent too.”

“You’re My Present This Year”: An Oral History of the Folgers Incest Ad

This is a wonderful example of the best part of the internet. When something silly happens and everyone comes together to mock it relentlessly.

Also, it may be a sign that the internet has made us all irretrievably cynical weirdos, but I prefer to focus on the former idea.

“Coming Home” opens with a taxi dropping a young man off outside a snow-covered house bedecked in Christmas decorations early one morning. A young woman excitedly opens the door and establishes that she’s his sister by pointing at herself and saying “sister!” He’s weary, having just returned from volunteering in “West Africa,” and the two share a cup of freshly-brewed Folgers coffee while their parents are still asleep. (In some versions he even says "ah, real coffee," as if he didn't just come from where some of the best coffee in the world is produced.) He hands her a small present, but instead of opening it, she peels off the red bow and sticks it on his shirt. “What are you doing?” he asks. “You’re my present this year,” she responds. The camera zooms in on her shy glance, then cuts to his furtive, flirty smile. Those three seconds sealed its fate forever.

When I first saw the ad, I thought: wait, are they fucking? (Then, every time after that: okay, they’re definitely fucking.) As I would come to learn, I was hardly alone. The reaction to the ad was an example of the internet at its most fun—the phenomenon of collectively realizing that the specific thing that you believed you’ve singularly noticed is actually a widely-held opinion. Memes, articles, and parody videos abounded. It even inspired a genre of vividly-rendered fan fiction known as “Folgerscest.”

Pedro Rodrigues Filho

Pedro Rodrigues Filho, a Brazilian serial killer who killed other criminals. He even killed his father, as payback for him having murdered his mother. After 34 years in jail, he was released. He was imprisoned again but is now a YouTuber who advises young people away from crime.

So basically Dexter but instead of having a terrible show ending, he got a youtube channel.

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