News 12.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 12.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 12.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Camille Stevens-Rumann never used to worry about seeing dead trees. As a wildland firefighter in the American west, she encountered untold numbers killed in blazes she helped to extinguish. She knew fires are integral to forests in this part of the world; they prune out smaller trees, giving room to the rest and even help the seeds of some species to germinate.

“We have largely operated under the assumption that forests are going to come back after fires,” Stevens-Rumann said.

But starting in about 2013, she noticed something unsettling. In certain places, the trees were not returning. For an analysis she led of sites across the Rocky Mountains, she found that almost one-third of places that had burned since 2000 had no trees regrowing whatsoever. Instead of tree seedlings, there were shrubs and flowers.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

News 12.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Today there is no more powerful corporation in the world than Google, so it may be hard to remember that not too long ago, the company was in a fight for its very existence. In its early years, Google couldn’t figure out how to make money. Founded in 1998, Google quickly became known for having the very best algorithm for indexing websites. That algorithm, called PageRank, made Google the internet’s most popular search engine, and Silicon Valley venture capitalists leapt to fund the company. But because search was free it was not clear how the company could ever generate enough revenue to turn a profit. Google had plenty of users, and no paying customers.

Profits did not matter much at the end of the twentieth century, during the peak of the dotcom stock market bubble. But when stock prices plummeted in 2000, it became clear that many technology companies were even less profitable—or more unprofitable—than observers had assumed. Google generated some revenue by selling advertisements to marketers who placed “banners” on its search pages—but that wasn’t going to be enough. Investors began to press Google executives for more details about its business model, which meant the company had to find a way to “monetize” its services, and fast.

Google engineers were aware that users’ search queries produced a great deal of “collateral data,” which they collected as a matter of course. Data logs revealed not only common keywords, but also dwell times and click patterns. This “data exhaust,” it began to dawn on some of Google’s executives, could be an immensely valuable resource for the company, since the data contained information that advertisers could use to target consumers. Google’s cofounders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, were initially skeptical of orienting the company around advertising. In an address at the 1998 World Wide Web Conference, they said that, “We expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers.” “This type of bias,” they added, “is very difficult to detect.” But the dotcom bust put their concerns in perspective, and as pressure built, Google began to direct its extraordinary engineering talent toward the problem of how best to match online ads to users based upon their search query patterns.

Read the rest of this article at: n+1

Dalton is one of the most selective private schools in Manhattan, in part because it knows the answer to an important question: What do hedge-funders want?

They want what no one else has. At Dalton, that means an “archaeologist in residence,” a teaching kitchen, a rooftop greenhouse, and a theater proscenium lovingly restored after it was “destroyed by a previous renovation.”

“Next it’ll be a heliport,” said a member of the local land-use committee after the school’s most recent remodel, which added two floors—and 12,000 square feet—to one of its four buildings, in order to better prepare students “for the exciting world they will inherit.” Today Dalton; tomorrow the world itself.

So it was a misstep when Jim Best, the head of school—relatively new, and with a salary of $700,000—said that Dalton parents couldn’t have something they wanted. The school would not hold in-person classes in the fall. This might have gone over better if the other elite Manhattan schools were doing the same. But Trinity was opening. Ditto the fearsome girls’ schools: Brearley, Nightingale-Bamford, Chapin, Spence.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 12.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

FUKUSHIMA, Japan — After an earthquake and tsunami pummeled a nuclear plant about 12 miles from their home, Tomoko Kobayashi and her husband joined the evacuation and left their Dalmatian behind, expecting they would return home in a few days.

It ended up being five years. Even now — a decade after those deadly natural disasters on March 11, 2011, set off a catastrophic nuclear meltdown — the Japanese government has not fully reopened villages and towns within the original 12-mile evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. And even if it did, many former residents have no plans to return.

Some of those who did return figured that coming home was worth the residual radiation risk. Others, like Ms. Kobayashi, 68, had businesses to restart.

“We had reasons to come back and the means to do so,” said Ms. Kobayashi, who manages a guesthouse. “It made sense — to an extent.”

Yet the Fukushima they returned to often feels more eerie than welcoming.

A hulking new sea wall, for instance, built to prevent future tsunamis hurtling into the plant, stands sentry on the nearby Pacific coastline. It’s a jarring feature in a pastoral region once known for its peaches and a thick type of ramen noodle.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

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News 12.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In early March last year, I was heading home from a work happy hour on the subway when I realized that a woman was staring at my belly. She looked at my waist, where my coat was belted, and then at the floor, and then at my waist again, and then she very tentatively offered me her seat. I was four months pregnant. (I’d also eaten a lot of fried food at happy hour, in lieu of drinking.) I felt pitifully grateful to this woman at the time, and I ended up thinking about her a lot in the following months. She was really the only person—apart from my husband, my obstetrician, some nurses, and my doormen—who ever saw me pregnant. My mother didn’t. My siblings didn’t. My best friends didn’t either, or my co-workers, or any other kindhearted strangers on the subway. After the second week of March, I stopped going anywhere apart from occasional doctor visits and walks around the city. In July, I gave birth to twins, and then I stopped going anywhere at all. “You take those babies home and you keep them there,” the head nurse at Weill Cornell Medicine told me, and that is exactly what I did.

Having a newborn is isolating all by itself. You go into the hospital as one person (uncomfortable, hopeful, terrified) and you come home as another, as someone yanked into hour-by-hour survival mode, physically torn open and nearly hallucinating from lack of sleep. None of this is conducive to seeing people, apart from the ones you trust the most. In my case, all of those people were 3,000 miles away in England, a pandemic travel ban preventing them from crossing the ocean. The emotional, hormonal, and psychological transformation a person goes through when they become a mother is called matrescence. It represents a fundamental shift in your sense of self. But humans are social creatures—we tend to construct our identity not only around the things we know or feel about ourselves, but also around the ways in which people respond to us. My babies are almost eight months old and I can count on one hand the number of people we’ve spent time with since they were born. Other than my husband, not a single person I love has really seen me being a mother. This new person I’ve become since I gave birth is a person virtually no one knows.

Nothing can prepare you for the isolation of giving birth during a pandemic. The experience took my privileged life—a thing that once included people and places and activities—and compacted it until all that was left was my apartment, my husband, and the two impossibly demanding strangers I was now tasked with keeping alive. We were, in retrospect, imperfectly set up for pandemic parenthood. We live in New York, where we have a few friends but no family nearby. We don’t have a car. We were established with all the trappings of successful 21st-century lives—good careers in an amazing city where we’d moved to facilitate them. But these things also meant that, when it really mattered, we were alone.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.