1. 16:28 10th Apr 2014

    Notes: 2

    March

    Wrote: About how rich people will stay put, even when you raise their taxes; kidnapped photos; the limits of evolution; my quest to find the origins of the popular quiz; where links go to live forever. Also, my first comic! (Forthcoming.)

    Read: Telex from Cuba; Leaving the Sea, which, by the time it got weird, had really won me over, despite being mostly about unhappy men

    Listened: To myself on the radio!

    Edited:  How to avoid people you don’t want to see. Humans ate so many fat old conches, the conches got smaller. Miami developers and archaeologist are fighting over the fate of a 1,500-year-old settlement. Nine of the dead sea scrolls were just chilling, unread, for 60 years. Poor little roly poly. Crows are terrifying. Eat dark chocolate. And just drink when you’re thirsty

    First: Shucked oyster. 

    Last: Day of being a twenty-something. 30!

     
  2. Pop Quiz

    When I started reporting this story, I was asking some of the same questions as a lot of other reporters. Why do we like quizzes? Are they grounded in reality? I decided pretty quickly that those stories weren’t that interesting, given that the answers to those questions were “we just do” and “nah.” Instead, I ran off instead on a quixotic quest to find out which publication was responsible, and when, for introducing pop-quizzes into the culture. 

    Numerous emails to my editor later, I realized that I wasn’t quite going to find the One, the quiz of all quizzes. But I did spend more hours than I should have in the NYPL, scrolling through old issues of Cosmo, looking for some of the first quizzes that Helen Gurley Brown had published. I did find some of those, and I loved that they were so serious and overly complicated. Look at all these words!

    This one, about how well you know yourself (it depends, apparently, on your assessment of situations that reveal your femininity or your adventurousness), had two parts. The reader was meant to take the quiz herself, and then, as a second step, ask two friends to judge her qualities using the same questions. Thus, the reader could assess the accuracy of her own answers:

    Here’s a close-up of one panel:

    It is almost impossible to resist these. Before I realized what was happening, I would be sitting in the microfiche room ticking off these boxes, in order to get the small thrill of having a decades-old magazine tell me that I’ve got a fair bit of common sense. (But not enough to resist taking the quiz, apparently.)

     
  3. 18:43 2nd Mar 2014

    Notes: 1

    February

     
  4. image

    January! This was…one of those months. In a good way.  I had a run of fun stories come out:

    Polar bear-lesque: The weirdest, sexiest way to confront climate change — Grist
    The lesson here is: when a friend mentions she’s helping make a polar-bear costume for a burlesque piece, always asks for details

    7 of the Weirdest, Promising New Jobs of 2014 — Fast Company
    Pot, drones, Uber, Foxconn…not all of these are equally promising, but they’re all strange

    Beyond local — Capital
    One B&T girl’s dream of how good New York’s regional transit could be

    Meet the 6-year-old mag that just took the internet by storm — CJR
    If you haven’t read that toast story, you’re missing out

    I’ve got a story in the March/April issue of Mental Floss, too, about Navid Khonsari, who worked on the Grand Theft Auto series and is now making what he hopes is a “sick game” about the Iranian Revolution.

    Smithsonian.com got a lovely re-design — and we’re going to be adding a fourth SmartNews blogger to the mix soon. 

    I’m also working right now on a longer feature that’s required me to take an improv class, go out dancing, get acupuncture, and become hyper-aware of my own body language. So, more good stuff to come.

    Image: Prospect Park skating 1880s, via the Brooklyn Museum

     
  5. My friend Marc asked: What are books that you’ve started but haven’t finished, that you fully intend on finishing, and that you think other people feel the exact same way about? 

    I love this game and could play it all day. But here’s the result. (I’m going to take credit for Tree of Smoke.) You end up with a list of thick books with tricky language and books with big ideas that are maybe a little too long and a little too dry. Our best intentions thwarted by time, convenience, the pain in the back of carrying a heavy weight around, and the difficulty of keeping an 800-page book open while lying in bed.

    Notably, there’s no Kindle edition of The Power Broker. But you can request it, here.

     
  6. I wrote about how the R train is shitty now, and what that means:

    Sandy didn’t much inconvenience me at the time. There’s a bar just downstairs, and if I wanted to, I could have spent a good part of the storm drinking. But I had more work than usual, since I write about climate change and disaster preparedness, and as the storm started, so did emails from editors. Our power stayed on through the whole storm, and I spent three days straight writing, talking to sources over crackling cellphone connections, feeling lucky that we’d moved, a couple months before, out of the East Village — our old apartment was just a few blocks from that power station that blew — and thinking about friends who still lived there.

    Now, Sandy inconveniences me almost every day.

    The rest is here

     
  7. 10:54 15th Oct 2013

    Notes: 1

    "You’ve basically written a sci-fi dystopia in non-fiction form today," said Ben. It’s true! I have story out on 30-foot-tall, potentially invasive grass that biofuel companies are looking at planting all over the country:
    In southeastern North Carolina, the land that’s most likely to be converted to fields of energy grasses is currently growing bright green, knee-high Bermuda grass for cow forage. But one day soon, you could driving down the same country road by these same fields and all of a sudden start feeling a little like Rick Moranis in Honey I Shrunk the Kids, with fields of grass stretching far above your head.
    A fragment of debris less than a millimeter in size, traveling at the typical low-earth orbit speed of 17,500 miles per hour, has enough force to pierce an astronaut’s spacesuit. A centimeter-wide piece could disable a satellite the size of a bus. A big one, measuring 4 inches or more, could destroy it…
    “Even if we don’t put anything else in orbit, in the long term, everything is going to collide with one another,” says Donald Kessler, the retired NASA physicist who first warned about space debris in the 1970s. Create enough debris and eventually, his calculations showed, humanity will have trashed orbital space so thoroughly that we won’t be able to send anything else up.
     
  8. What pictures, texts, videos and other content are fair game for reporters and bloggers to pick up and repurpose in their own work? I reported this week on a new set of principles that’s meant to help guide those decisions:

    I did feel more confident about appropriating screenshots from TV shows or movies to illustrate posts than I ever had. A more complicated question, Aufderheide suggested, would have been if we had found a copy of the episode on BitTorrent (not a tough feat, considering Game of Thrones is themost pirated show in the world) and used a clip to illustrate the post—to show what had so upset fans.

     
  9. "Right now, resources are limited and being cut back in ways that aren’t intentional. We have to be smart about adapting to this new geography. It should feel urgent. Concentrated poverty has started growing in suburbs, too. And we know all of the challenges that evolve when that kind of concentrated poverty develops. If in the 1970s they had known what was going to happen—if they had anticipated the disinvestment in distressed areas, let’s hope they would have done things differently."

     
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