Today’s Most Interesting Reads, 12/11/18

  • The solution for urban highways might be to eliminate them completely.
  • This is from a while back. It’s an interesting analysis of two-point vs. three-point shooting that starts off in a weird direction and ends up at the same conclusion that analytics nerds have been repeating for years now: it’s better to shoot threes than two-point jumpers. 
  • Dave Zirin reviews a new documentary: The Trials of Muhammad Ali, which offers a deep look at Ali and includes rarely seen footage. Zirin writes that it’s the best Ali documentary he’s ever seen.
  • No. Just no.
  • Ezra Klein writes about Paul Ryan’s legacy as a con man. Ryan presented himself as someone ready to make “tough choices” (mostly slashing support for poor people and the elderly), but when he became Speaker, led the charge to pass budgets that increased budget deficits by 80% annually. Key point by Klein: “The question here is not why Ryan didn’t live up to a liberal philosophy of government; it’s why he didn’t live up to his own philosophy of government.”
  • Also from Ezra Klein, a critique of Andrew Sullivan’s shitty reasoning.
  • Matt Yglesias bids good riddance to John Kelly.
  • Researchers have found that “despite extreme heat, no light, minuscule nutrition, and intense pressure…the subterranean biosphere is teeming with…micro-organisms, hundreds of times the combined weight of every human on the planet.”

Today’s Most Interesting Reads, 12/10/18

Okay, I’m cheating a little. Some of these are things I read over the weekend.

  • Conservative pundit takes a GOP campaign’s theft of absentee ballots in North Carolina and weirdly pretends it’s some sort of vindication for GOP voter suppression efforts. To recap: Trump and the GOP claimed (without evidence) Democrats were engaging in widespread voter fraud, which included millions of undocumented immigrants voting illegally. In North Carolina, someone working for the GOP candidate assembled a team to at minimum steal absentee ballots and trash ones he didn’t like. “At minimum” because his team probably filled some of those ballots out themselves and submitted them. 
  • The Two Faces of Lummie Jenkins — a helluva story about the differing portrayals of the same guy. This gets at something critical in examining history, telling and enjoying stories, and being an adult person who isn’t an asshole: point of view.
  • Behind the scenes of John Kelly’s departure as Chief of Staff.
  • Adam Davidson with a superb article detailing just how incompetent Trump’s shitty henchmen actually were. Davidson has done some great work chronicling the corrupt and almost certainly illegal business practices of the Trump Organization since at least 2006.
  • This article about why the Spurs offense is effective is from five years ago, but it’s worth a read or re-read because it so accurately describes what NBA teams are trying to do today.
  • An interview with Steven Pinker about why we think civilization is worse than it used to be despite optimism about our personal lives and objective facts that show civilization is much better than it was in the past.
  • Manafort, Cohen and Invidual 1 are in grave danger.
  • Programmers created AlphaZero, a system that taught itself to play chess (and other strategy games) in a closed system — meaning, they didn’t let it study human games. The program taught itself by playing randomly at first and developing its own strategies. It found its way to classic human strategies and worked out novel ways of playing that humans hadn’t figured out.
  • And, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, writes about AlphaZero.
  • Quickly becoming one of my favorite basketball reads, Caitlin Cooper breaks down how Bojan Bogdanovich uses screens. Side note: there’s literally nothing he does that wasn’t taught during a Station 13 at Five Star basketball camp in Pittsburgh during the summer of 1987.
  • Shane Young writes that Stephen Curry is the best player in the game. Back in 2016, I wrote for Vice about how Curry was having the best single season ever. Shane has some cool video to go with his piece. Really good stuff, even if he misuses “desolated.”
  • Glenn Kessler and the fact-checking team at the Washington Post have come up with a new category for Trump’s incessant lying: the Bottomless Pinocchio. To qualify, a false statement needs to be repeated at least 20 times. Trump is the only politician to accomplish this feat. I’m glad they’ve come up with something, but I would prefer they just called it what it is: Disinformation Campaign.
  • I didn’t read or write this — it’s the #SoWizards podcast, which consists of Ben Becker and me running our mouths about the Washington Wizards. 

Today’s Most Interesting Reads, 12/7/18

  • Just the former director of the Office of Policy Analysis in the U.S. Department of the Interior highlighting the ways Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke purged staff, sidelined scientists and elevated industrial interests since taking office.
  • India is beefing up its navy to counter Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.
  • Hitler didn’t know about the Pearl Harbor attack but was “delighted” when he heard about it. He followed it up by declaring war on the US, which meant FDR didn’t have to worry about congress agreeing to enter World War II. Interestingly, one reason Japan decided to attack was their alliance with Germany, which they viewed as an unstoppable force. Germany joined them in declaring war on the US because they had a high opinion of Japan’s power. Oops.
  • Greg Sargent of the Washington Post with some analysis of how Trump is failing on many fronts.
  • Paul Krugman on Trump’s ignorance and how that’s affecting trade and the US economy. Krugman highlights that US trade law has worked well for 80 years, but notes that “…it wasn’t intended to handle the problem of a corrupt, irresponsible president.”
  • This is one of the weirdest “eye test vs. analytics” juxtapositions I’ve read. Everything discussed as being visible to the eye, but obscured in “the analytics,” is readily available in the data.
  • The disinformation challenges created by deep fake technology, and what we might be able to do about it. Fascinating read.
  • Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the president is impulsive and undisciplined in his decision-making, and that Trump often wanted to do things that would violate the law.
  • Inspired by a cranky Gregg Popovich, Tom Haberstroh took a look at which box score stats correspond most with winning in the NBA. No surprise that it’s still FG% — it has been since forever.

Today’s Most Interesting Reads, 12/6/18

Today’s Most Interesting Reads, 12/5/18

Day three, but with the innovation of a new headline!

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Interesting Stuff I Read Today, 12/4/18

Day two of the experiment in posting links to things I read and found interesting.

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  • New York City wants to protect the Strand bookstore by making it a designated landmark. The catch: owner Nancy Bass Wyden doesn’t want it and says it could kill the bookstore by imposing landmark restrictions. Killer line: “The richest man in America, who’s a direct competitor, has just been handed $3 billion in subsidies. I’m not asking for money or a tax rebate,” Ms. Wyden said. “Just leave me alone.”
  • The “three C’s” of screenwriting — concept, characters, conflict. Nothing earth-shaking about the advice here, but still useful reminders.
  • It’s looking like the campaign for Republican Mark Harris committed coordinated election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District race. After all the noise made by Trump and the GOP about voter fraud, they’re weirdly not saying anything about GOP campaign workers stealing absentee ballots.
  • While on the subject of GOP efforts to disenfranchise voters…this one is from Georgia.
  • And this one, which includes: “Let’s start in Wisconsin, where Republicans gerrymandered so ruthlessly…Democratic candidates won 54 percent of votes for the state house but Republicans held on to an incredible 64 percent of the seats.” Similar crap is happening in Michigan, and North Carolina.
  • Odd how these white nationalist types keep emerging from the ranks of the GOP.
  • Lee Child is working on bringing his iconic character Jack Reacher to television. This is great news (if you haven’t read any of the Reacher books, you’re missing out). My hope is they don’t get too caught up in casting a star. Pick a talented “unknown” who can be Reacher, and let the fan equity from writing a popular series of books build the TV audience.
  • Interesting analysis of the effects of the NBA’s emphasis on freedom of movement this season.
  • Parts of this article about Robert Covington from Ben Falk read like a subtweet of this year’s Washington Wizards.