Microsoft announced some big decisions today, writing off $7.6 billion from the Nokia acquisition and sacking 7,800 employees. A significant number of those staff (2,300) are based in Salo, Finland. Salo is basically a Nokia company town – 1,000 employees at the factory were laid off back in 2012 – and the latest round of job cuts means Microsoft is slashing the workforce by 66 percent. For the people of the city, it could have a similar effect to the base closing in a military town. The local economy has relied heavily on that presence for a very long time. The workers in…
It’s been long enough. Vulnerability after vulnerability is found in Adobe Flash and yet most of us continue to put up with it and blindly install it on every computer. Even when Adobe started packaging rubbish with Flash we kept installing it. With the latest revelations that a surveillance company was exploiting it to take control of computers, it’s time to just stop using it entirely. It was understandable for a while; it was simply one of those pieces of software you had to put up with to use the internet properly. If you didn’t have it, you couldn’t watch videos or listen to…
The company I work at just got acquired by a bigger company earlier this month. As a result, we had a big celebration party at a restaurant nearby. I was chatting with some new people at the company, asking them what attracted them to work here. Most of the answers were the same generally — people wanted to work at a place that cared a lot about the quality of their software. One guy started naming off all the company culture buzz words like “TDD”, “agile”, “continuous integration”, etc. After he finished listing it off though, he said apologized to me for using all the big words and big concepts that I wouldn’t understand. (Assumption #1: I wouldn’t understand technical jargon.) Usually, I feel compelled to tell someone that I’m a software developer, and I get what they’re saying, especially since I’ve been around the company for over two years. This time, I decided to take a different approach and see how far this would go. It was equally hilarious and horrific.
I didn’t particularly make it obvious that I understood what he was talking about, but I didn’t play into not knowing any of it either: “The company is a big agile shop, and everyone really does care about good software.” For some whatever reason, he responded by telling me that it was “nice that even the secretaries knew the lingo.” (Assumption #2: I was a secretary.) I had a noncommittal response saying that they hired a lot of smart people.
We talked about college a little bit, and I told him how I went to school at MSU and U of Washington. He “nicely” told me that he heard that they promoted secretaries to quality assurance roles, and that one day, in a couple of years, I could work hard and take extra classes to finish my degree and get to that position myself. (Assumption #3: I was unhappy in my current role. Assumption #4: I didn’t finish college.) I told him that I had finished college because I’m so gosh darned proud of it that I forgot that I was trying to see how far he’d take the assumptions. He added that he bet that I regretted my humanities degree because he was making a lot of money with his engineering degree. (Assumption #5: I had a humanities degree)
After a little bit, another friend of mine joined the conversation, and we chatted about my team. Somewhere in that, his face fell when he realized that I was a software developer. He interrupted our conversation and asked why I let him embarrass himself for so long. Note — he never apologized. However, he was so uncomfortable with being wrong that I hope he’ll remember that next time when he starts talking to a female coworker.
My hope is that the shame from being wrong will stay with him. It doesn’t seem to phase people when you instantly correct them on their assumptions. I’m not entirely sure if this was the best approach for this, but I get so many similar conversations all the time, I think I’ll have plenty of opportunities to try new approaches.
Men are the motherfucking worst. No, not "some" men. No, you, A Nice Man, are not special because you aren't this blatant and obvious. Men are socialized to think this shit about women, and all yall do it, and you're the fucking worst, and the day you start thinking of yourself as A Good Guy Who's Not Like THOSE Men is when you become even worse than these dbags. Trust me.
In an old video recently posted on YouTube and unearthed by Mother Jones, astrophysicist and Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson emphatically countered one of the main arguments used by opponents of genetically modified food. "Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans," he says, "is genetically modified food."
"We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals, that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them," he goes on. "It's called 'artificial selection.' That's how we genetically modify them."
"We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals, that we have eaten since we cultivated them."
Now, as it's typically used, genetic modification often refers to things like scientists swapping out a gene from one species and putting it into another species — rather than simply selecting for genes already present in a particular plant, as farmers have done historically.
But in many ways, this is more of a semantic nuance than a substantial difference. Just by using traditional breeding methods, as Tyson notes, we've dramatically altered the appearance, nutrition, taste, and reproductive habits of pretty much all the foods we eat. This is part of the reason why "all-natural" labels on foods are meaningless. The only "natural" apple is a crabapple, and "natural" corn — as it existed before humans domesticated it 9,000 years ago — was a rock-hard grass with a few kernels that shattered before it could be harvested.
Of course, there are many other reasons why people currently oppose lab-engineered foods. So far, though, there isn't good evidence that they're any less safe than regular foods. The impact of these foods on the environment seems to be mixed: they may have reduced pesticide use, but have increased use of weed-killing herbicides, and could give rise to herbicide-resistant "superweeds." Many opponents also charge that a few biotech companies have profited from them as much from as millions of farmers and consumers.
But if your problem with GM foods is simply that they're not "natural", Tyson has a simple message for you: "Chill out."
When NBC's Meet the Press over the weekend held a roundtable about the New York Times Editorial Board's decision to endorse marijuana legalization, participants seemed to take the issue very lightly — regularly making jokes between a few serious policy points.
It was obvious where the conversation would go from the start, when host David Gregory mentioned marijuana and giggles went around the table. From that point, the jokes flowed. "I don't know what they've been smoking up there," said columnist David Brooks about the New York Times Editorial Board. Judy Woodruff of PBS Newshour said, "When I think of grass, I think of something to walk on. When I think of pot, I think of something to put a plant in."
there's a very serious disconnect about what marijuana legalization would mean for America
The chuckles are typical in conversations about marijuana policy. At one of his first town halls, President Barack Obama joked, "There was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high: that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation. And I don't know what this says about the online audience." In June, former President Bill Clinton asked, "Rocky Mountain high?" to chuckles before going into an answer that seemed to support state-based reform. Hillary Clinton got in some jokes about marijuana before answering a similar question at a CNN-hosted town hall in the spring.
In some cases, these quips help lighten a conversation about drugs that many Americans, especially parents, are simply uncomfortable with. But the jokes also reflect a problem in discussions about US drug policy: there's a very serious disconnect about what marijuana legalization means for Americans.
It's easy to joke about marijuana policy when the idea of legalization feels more like a new freedom, which might be the case for whiter and wealthier populations. As someone from a privileged background who socializes with people from similarly privileged backgrounds, my social circle's conversations about pot legalization largely revolve around how cool and liberating it might be to buy pot legally. What we rarely mention in these conversations: race, the criminal justice system, and the fear of getting arrested if someone were to buy pot illegally.
black people are 3.7 times more likely to get arrested for pot possession
But for minority, poorer populations, marijuana policy is much closer to a civil rights issue. Marijuana isn't just a drug that they would like to be able to use and carry out in the open. Marijuana criminalization has historically been used to harass and arrest people in minority and poor communities at hugely disproportionate rates.
Black and white people use pot at similar rates, but black people are much more likely to be arrested for it. (ACLU)
These racially disproportionate marijuana-related arrest rates remained in some states even after decriminalization, when criminal penalties are removed but the drug remains technically illegal.
New York, for instance, decriminalized marijuana in 1977, but as of 2012 had one of the highest arrest rates for pot possession. The problem: New York law allows arrests for marijuana that's within public view. Police officers in New York City regularly used this exception to arrest people, particularly minorities, by getting them to empty their pockets during stop-and-frisk searches and expose marijuana that would otherwise have remained hidden. (According to a report from the New York City Public Advocate's office, the vast majority of stop-and-frisk searches in 2012 — roughly 84 percent — involved black or Hispanic people.)
There is a legitimate debate to be had about whether these arrests focus on drug traffickers instead of users, highlight broader problems in the war on drugs and the criminal justice system, or signify higher crime rates among minority communities.
marijuana policy is simply no joking matter
But Meet the Press didn't even give that debate a chance. The roundtable instead focused on the health effects and whether legalization increases pot use. These are very important issues that need to be discussed, but they're also the kinds of issues more privileged Americans can focus on because they just don't see the skewed effects of criminalization in their everyday lives.
Just imagine, for example, if the couple of minutes the roundtable spent on jokes were instead spent discussing racially uneven drug policy enforcement. As Ryan Cooper of the Week points out, this would be much more valuable to Meet the Press' audience. Because for a large chunk of the US population, marijuana policy is simply no joking matter.
To learn more about marijuana legalization, read our full explainer and watch the video below:
The Blu-Ray release of David Lynch and Mark Frost's ingenious, seminal mystery series Twin Peaks on Tuesday and the attendant hoopla (deleted scenes! a new take on the famously enigmatic series finale!) reconfirm something many TV fans have known for a long time: Twin Peaks is one of the most influential shows in the medium's history. There are maybe a handful of dramas that can be pointed to as dividing lines for TV, where it's easy to recognize shows that came before the series' time on the air and shows that came after. Twin Peaks was one of them.
That we would be saying this in 2014 is something that just wouldn't have occurred to viewers of the program in 1991, when it was canceled in the midst of its famously troubled second season. The show debuted in the spring of 1990 to a wave of critical acclaim. It became a sensation, with viewers trying to unravel the show's central mystery: who had killed homecoming queen Laura Palmer? Spinoff merchandise was spun off. The show received awards nomination after awards nomination. And the media went a little bit nuts.
But here's the thing about being a legitimately groundbreaking work of art: sometimes, people don't know what to make of you. And as the Laura Palmer mystery entered its second season, many wondered just when the show would resolve its central case. Lynch (best known for dark, surreal films like Blue Velvet) and Frost initially intended to only reveal the answer in the series finale, but finally bent to public pressure. The identity of Laura's killer was revealed in the 14th episode (which turned out to be almost exactly the midpoint of the show), Lynch left to make another film, and the show's ratings continued their downward trend.
But if the audiences of 1991 weren't quite sure what to make of the show - cue Homer Simpson: "Brilliant! I have no idea what's going on" - those who wrote, directed, and produced television were paying lots of attention, and now, the show's influence can be felt in damn near every show on the air. (Should you want to see its own ancestors, look no further than The Twilight Zone, The Prisoner, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, thirtysomething, and Moonlighting.) But rather than list every show that's come since Peaks left the air, we thought we'd focus on these 11, which all point to specific ways Peaks has influenced television.
1) Northern Exposure
Though largely forgotten today, this contemporary of Twin Peaks made that show's weirdness more palatable to a large audience. Where the odd center of Peaks was often terrifying and threatening, Northern Exposure subsumed its own literary weirdness under bundles of quirk. Both shows were filmed in Washington state (among the earliest TV shows not to film in Los Angeles, New York, or Hawaii), and both shows were fond of long digressions that had nothing to do with the main plot. But by leaning more toward overt comedy, Northern Exposure managed a six-season run and won the Emmy that eluded Twin Peaks. The two were compared so often while both on the air that Northern Exposure actually filmed this weird tribute to its competitor/cousin.
2) The X-Files
If there was a show that "mainstreamed" the Twin Peaks sensibility, it was the ‘90s mega-hit The X-Files, without which Peaks might have become a curious footnote in television history. Twin Peaks was built around one central mystery? Well, The X-Files was, too. Twin Peaks was filled with suggestions of the weird, terrifying corners of the American imagination? The X-Files would have that in spades. Twin Peaks had David Duchovny for a while? The X-Files would pick that up as well. The stroke of genius that made X-Files run for nine seasons, however, was that not every episode was about the central mystery (which involved aliens visiting the Earth). Some were standalones, and that gave the show license to spread its Peaks-y vibe in every direction. At its height, it was one of the most experimental shows in TV history, deeply indebted to Lynch's weird art film for TV.
3) The Sopranos
When HBO was carefully choosing which series it would go forward with to follow up its initial drama series, Oz, one of its candidates was this mob drama that was really more of a drama about psychology. It was created by David Chase, a man with Northern Exposure roots who had been offered a job on The X-Files should HBO decide to pass. And when HBO did pick up Sopranos at the last minute, Chase immediately began delving deep into the Twin Peaks back catalog. In its ability to find menace amid American normalcy, the show definitely had a Lynchian vibe, but its most direct link to Peaks is likely in its use of dream sequences, which it used to plumb the depths of its main character's subconscious. Peaks had loved dreams, too, but Sopranos took them to a whole new level.
The central problem of Twin Peaks was that it wanted to tell one story, but it became far too difficult to keep the audience (at least at the time) invested in that story over the course of an entire series. Though 24 is perhaps the series with the least direct debts to Peaks on this list, it did tackle that same problem and inadvertently solve it by basically ignoring normal story structure. Every season of 24 purported to be one story, but it was actually many smaller stories, and with every episode, its momentum carried it forward, faster and faster, all involved hoping the train wouldn't leave the tracks. Want to avoid the kind of backlash Peaks encountered in its second season? Simply move too fast for anyone to think.
Many have tried to nail the "one central mystery over the course of a show" vibe that Twin Peaks was going for; none have wholly succeeded. But Lost came closer than many, even if its ultimate solutions frustrated many fans. And in its ability to turn the deserted island where its characters made their new home into a place of almost unbridled, unchecked menace, the show tipped its hat toward Peaks. Here was a world with one level, then a deeper, far more terrifying and primordial level of shadow and horror. At its best, Lost suggested some lurking terror that awaited at the heart of the island. That was a page straight out of the Peaks playbook. (Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof's current series, The Leftovers, owes a fair amount to Peaks as well.)
6) Desperate Housewives
It's easy to forget now that the show is mostly known for its serialization and its moments of existential dread, but Twin Peaks was also a wickedly funny soap opera deconstruction that simultaneously functioned as a darn great, straightforward soap all on its own. It's also easy to forget how well Desperate Housewives managed this trick in its first season, especially since the show spent seven more trying to find its way back to that place and often failing. But at its best, Housewives was a primetime soap that carried with it the acid bite of satire and the sense suburbia might boil over with demons at any moment. Also worth noting: both this and Lost debuted on ABC, the same network that briefly aired Peaks, in the same season. Maybe someone was trying to atone for Peaks's cancellation? (And if you want a far more overtly Peaks-like soap, try Mike White's short-lived creation Pasadena. It's darkly wonderful.)
7) John from Cincinnati
What if you took one of the greatest TV writers in the medium's history (this series' creator, David Milch), then turned him loose in a surf noir playground and asked him to make a series that was Twin Peaks informed by end times Christianity? Well, you might end up with something like this famous flop series from HBO (which debuted immediately after the finale of The Sopranos). John is messy, unfulfilling television, but it's also deeply fascinating, capable of sequences more weird and moving than anything any of Peaks's other imitators attempted.
8) Forbrydelsen/The Killing
"One season covering one case" has basically become a cliché now, with its own expected dramatic beats and predictable reversals. Yet the roots of that movement can be traced directly to Twin Peaks, which, after all, solved its central murder in 14 episodes, one more than the typical cable episode order. And if you ever need proof that any series' aesthetic can be anesthetized and dulled down for mass consumption, look at how badly the AMC (now Netflix) series The Killing longs to copy Twin Peaks, right down to the Pacific Northwest locations. But not only does it miss the mark of that program but also the series it was based on, the Danish drama Forbrydelsen, which wedded the "case of the season" format to some of Peaks's consideration of grief, domestic melodrama, and Danish weather patterns. Forbrydelsen was so successful that it kicked off an entire subgenre known as "Nordic noir," which essentially codified many of Peaks's chief achievements – a love of melodrama, extreme coincidences, a menacing atmosphere and tone – into clichés of their own.
Peaks's influence is so pronounced now that it's even reaching out to affect comedies. FX's terrific Louie – itself hugely influential in its own right – has taken the idea of TV driven by an auteur involved deeply in both writing and directing (often seriously discussed in the context of Lynch's work on Peaks) and turned it into the center of a meandering series that doesn't much care for continuity or having every episode even occupy the same universe. Louie has a fuzzy, dream-like relationship with reality that crystallized in its recent, much-discussed fourth season. Plus, Lynch himself was a guest star in a key third-season arc.
10) Pretty Little Liars
Okay, yeah, nobody is going to mistake this show for the slow, menacing world of Peaks, but it does eerily resemble what might happen if you tossed Twin Peaks into a blender with a full bag of damn fine coffee beans, then fed it intravenously to a bunch of teenagers, before writing down whatever came out of their mouths after consuming it. This is not a very smart show, but it reveals how fully the Peaks template – central mystery, elements derived more from horror than anything else, intentionally campy melodrama – has touched all of television. Even TV aimed at teenagers is making use of it.
11) Gravity Falls
Really, any of the huge surge of "quirky small-town shows" could stand in for the way Peaks has become such an accepted part of the TV landscape, but let's look at this Disney Channel series about kids spending their summers in a mysterious small town, where all the paranormal beasties from The X-Files are real. Though the show doesn't revolve around a murder, its first season did have a central mystery, of sorts, and it's not all that hard to trace all of the characters back to rough Twin Peaks antecedents. Plus, seeing the influence of Peaks on a weird kids cartoon should, if nothing else, prove just how far the show has come from the days when it suffered ignominious cancellation. Fans of Twin Peaks have long hoped for some sort of revival of the series, but they needn't require such a thing. All they have to do is look everywhere else on the programming grid – even the Disney Channel.