The Weekender is a weekly column devoted to the ideas/articles/videos that I find fascinating and wish I had more time to explore.
Silence is deafening. One of the more interesting stories that broke over the past couple weeks was the revelation that the most popular episode ever of This American Life was largely fabricated. In January Ira Glass ran a radio version of Mike Daisey’s one man show called “the agony and ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” Which focused on the working conditions of the Chinese workers that assemble Apple products. I remember hearing the original broadcast and being stunned at what I was hearing, but it came to light that Mike Daisey fabricated much of his story, and lied to the producers at This American Life to get them to run his story. When they discovered the deceit, they brought Mike back on the show to have him account for himself. What transpired was one of the most intensely gripping radio programs you will ever hear as Ira’s anger is barely contained under his professionalism and Mike leaves long stretches of dead air that just make your skin crawl.
The SAT is an SOB. A 35 year old guy decides to retake the SAT almost twenty years since his first go round. His essay commemorating the experience is both hilarious and completely relatable for anybody who has ever had to fill in a Scantron sheet. Be forewarned…he gets rather explicit with his frustrations. For example, his commentary on the obnoxious rules that prevent you from flipping to other sections of the test: “Whatever you say, MEIN FÜHRER…I never went back to check my answers, because fuck that. I never went back to check when I was a student, and I wasn’t gonna do it now.” I remember standardized tests making me feel the exact same way…
I know that’s cool, but how isn’t that illegal? This kid’s name is Taylor Wilson. He may save the world. He built a nuclear reactor inside his parent’s garage when he was 15. He invented homeland security scanners that are much more effective for hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper than the current models. In his TED talk, he even shows you the yellow cake that he made in his garage. If we are worried about the Iranian government doing that…how can this kid be doing it in a garage?
Makes the world seem small. This is an amazing video that NASA put together that models last years devastating tsunami. It helps place the enormity of the wave in perspective when you see that it touched four different continents. Another interesting part of the video is realizing that even on an enormous scale…the physics of the ocean water are the same as watching the ripples from my son’s splashing in the bathtub. It’s a remarkable world.
The Ghost Ship cometh. In other tsunami related news… the first bit if detritus from Japan has made it’s way to North America. It is a Japanese boat that is lurking off of the coast of Canada…I find it fascinating that the news report states that they don’t believe that there is anyone on board…but I guess no one is certain? For more tsunami debris info…check out NOAA’s Marine debris program
The dark side of those “always low prices,” always. An absolute must read article takes a look at how Wal-Mart has outsourced much of it’s warehousing work to temp agencies. It takes steady jobs, and turns them into unbenfitted part time positions. The workers show up in the morning without knowing if they will get a days work or not. While some may say that is simply the free market at work, the real nefarious stuff comes to light when the workers have a complaint. The staffing agency that hired them is usually a fly by night operation that is run out of a PO Box and a motel room. They will deny responsibility for working conditions, and cite the pressure from the contractor (Wal-Mart). Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is twice removed from the workers and will usually trot out the excuse that the workers “are not employees of the company” so they have plausible deniability. The resulting effect is that many workers are mistreated and over worked for little pay while the corporations that benefit pocket millions and millions every year.