Monowi, Nebraska is the only incorporated municipality in the US to have a population of one:
Mr. Eiler died in 2004, leaving his wife as the only remaining resident. In this capacity, she acts as Mayor, granting herself a liquor license and paying taxes to herself. She is required to produce a municipal road plan every year in order to secure state funding for the village’s four street lights.
Although the village is nearly abandoned, it does have the 5,000-volume Rudy’s Library, founded in memory of Mr. Eiler and maintained by Mrs. Eiler. In addition, Mrs. Eiler runs a tavern in Monowi and draws regular customers from as far as 80 miles away.
DEC 03, 2013
Dropbox was first announced on Hacker News over six years ago. One of the top-rated comments was written by user BrandonM and serves as a constant reminder of why we should be cautious when receiving feedback from geeks:
I have a few qualms with this app: […] For a Linux user, you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem.
DEC 03, 2013
Annie Dookhan, the Massachusetts crime lab chemist and expert witness who falsified test results in as many as 40,000 cases, has been handed a prison sentence of three to five years:
“You can tell that Annie Dookhan felt a sense of allegiance to the prosecution,” [Anne Goldbach of the Massachusetts public defenders agency] said. “That is absolutely unconscionable.”
The documents in the case also show that for years Dookhan tested thousands more drug samples than her colleagues. A WBUR analysis shows that between 2009 and 2010, the time it took Dookhan to conduct a test went down by more than half.
Thousands of lives have potentially been destroyed by this woman’s malice, but prosecutors are upset because they don’t have the enough reasonable doubt to keep some of her victims locked up:
“It’s unsettling and maddening, because you’re now going to have a lot of people get released to the street prematurely,” says Middlesex County District attorney Gerry Leone, one of many hoping the state supreme court will curb the releases.
While some defendants could still be on the hook for gun or assault charges, for example, he says most drug cases where Dookhan was the primary chemist will be impossible to re-prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
There is nothing “premature” about releasing people who were imprisoned without their due process.
DEC 03, 2013
Photographer Richard Adevon tells the story of his candid portrait of Marilyn Monroe:
For hours she danced and sang and flirted and did this thing that’s—she did Marilyn Monroe. And then there was the inevitable drop. And when the night was over and the white wine was over and the dancing was over, she sat in the corner like a child, with everything gone. I saw her sitting quietly without expression on her face, and I walked towards her but I wouldn’t photograph her without her knowledge of it. And as I came with the camera, I saw that she was not saying no.
NOV 22, 2013
Ira Glass on his poker ability:
I’m not so good, but I enjoy it.
I’ve read the poker books, but at this point, everybody who’s playing has read the poker books. I feel like I’m knowledgeable enough to understand what’s going on in the game, and I understand why I suck. And I’m not sure if I’ll ever rise beyond that to the level where I don’t suck.
I understand what it would take to be good, but I just don’t know if I would ever actually get there.
A friend recently confided in me that he hadn’t been attending a regular card game of ours because he’s “terrible” compared to the other attendees. What that said to me was how far ahead of the curve he is. Poker is a war of information, so by being in tune with his weaknesses — even if his awareness is as broad as ”I’m terrible” — my friend has stripped his opponents of some of their advantage.
The vast majority of poker players are long-term losers, and most of those players think they are great. The more Ira plays, the clearer it will be to him how much of an advantage his awareness is.
His lesson for new storytellers applies just as well to poker players:
For beginners, I wish somebody had told me it was normal to be bad for a long time. I was bad for a long time before I got good. I wish somebody had given me that reassuring news that that’s normal. I wish somebody had given me the news that ideas don’t just fall on your head like fairy dust.
Ira appears in the 2009 documentary All In: The Poker Movie.
NOV 19, 2013
Grantland profiles Kevin Kelly, a high school football coach who never punts on fourth down:
The numbers Kelley cites are that eye-popping. And he isn’t cooking the books: Cal professor David Romer concluded that teams should not punt when facing fourth-and-4 or less; NFL stats analyst Brian Burke has detailed the need to rethink fourth-down decision-making; […] Most fans and analysts who are willing to accept that change is a fundamental part of life have embraced the idea that automatically punting on fourth down doesn’t make sense.
So why do teams at all levels remain so rote?
They’re afraid of the fallout from a botched conversion attempt. A mere months after Brian Burke wrote the piece mentioned above, he defended Bill Belichick when the Patriots coach failed to convert in a 2009 game against the Colts:
Statistically, the better decision would be to go for it, and by a good amount. […] You can play with the numbers any way you like, but it’s pretty hard to come up with a realistic combination of numbers that makes punting the better option. At best, you could make it a wash.
Nate Silver quipped:
This is the one case where 9-year olds playing Madden – it’s no fun to punt in a video game – quite literally make better decisions than most NFL head coaches.
NOV 15, 2013
JPMorgan thought it would be fun to give social media a try:
JPMorgan last week asked users of the popular microblogging site to send questions marked with the hashtag #AskJPM in advance of the session set for Thursday at 1 p.m. in New York.
Few questions appeared until Wednesday afternoon when responses started piling in. Some users simply made fun of the bank’s attempt to use social media, but many others chose to insult executives or ask barbed questions about bank’s recent legal problems and corporate responsibility.
Tomorrow’s Q&A is cancelled. Bad Idea. Back to the drawing board.
NOV 15, 2013
Denis Johnson in the essay Three Deserts from his collection Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond:
To a man or woman trying to get across it, it isn’t a landscape but a hostile medium, a dusty and sometimes steamy glare of fortnights to the west, a hopeless waste very like the top of the sea, a place not so much to be looked at as lived through. Part of its beauty is this hard fact, that while we’re seeing it, we’re also surviving it; and the sight arouses in us the humble gratitude of refugees.
NOV 01, 2013
So a few weeks ago I got a new [Latitude] 6430u for work.
The machine is great, but it smells as if it was assembled near a tomcats litter box. It is truly awful!
It reads like a joke or a troll post at first, then numerous customers and Dell representatives chime in on the multi-page thread.
OCT 30, 2013
The high place phenomenon describes a sudden urge to jump when in a high place. The French call it ”l’appel du vide” which literally translates to “the call of the void”. Though it has been associated with suicidal tendencies, research shows that the sensation might actually be a defense mechanism:
The [high place phenomenon] is commonly experienced among suicide ideators and non-ideators alike. Thus, individuals who report experiencing the phenomenon are not necessarily suicidal; rather, the experience of HPP may reflect their sensitivity to internal cues and actually affirm their will to live.
By imagining yourself jump, you rationalize that doing so would be bad, and so you don’t.
A related concept is The Imp of the Perverse, a term that was popularized and possibly coined by Edgar Allen Poe:
The Imp of the Perverse is a metaphor for the urge to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation for the sole reason that it is possible for wrong to be done.
OCT 28, 2013