Greener Pastures

Hemisphere Factor

Slate.com's Green Room - Mon, 06/24/2013 - 08:00

The 2009 Stephen King novel Under the Dome concerns a small town abruptly sundered from the rest of America by a transparent hemispherical membrane of seeming supernatural origin. To visualize this, imagine the surface of the Earth as the flat surface of a footed cake plate and the dome as the thingie atop it. Does the phrase Glass Cloche Encounters capture the spirit of the book? Would an invocation of The SimpsonsTrappuccino be more apt? These questions are not rhetorical; really, I’m asking, for in describing the premise of this thousand-page novel, I also have defined the only circumstances under which I would read it.

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Marathon Everyman

Slate.com's Green Room - Mon, 06/24/2013 - 07:30

Quick, who is the world record holder in the marathon? No Googling. OK, I’ll make it easier—name any distance runner.

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Connecting the Dots, Missing the Story

Slate.com's Green Room - Mon, 06/24/2013 - 06:45

Could Big Data have prevented 9/11? Perhaps—Dick Cheney, for one, seems to think so. But let's consider another, far more provocative question: What if 9/11 happened today, in the era of Big Data, making it all but inevitable that all the 19 hijackers had extensive digital histories?

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Craft Whiskey Isn’t Necessarily Better

Slate.com's Green Room - Mon, 06/24/2013 - 04:45

Most foodies reflexively reach for artisanal versions of their favorite foods. We hold the truth that “small is best” to be self-evident, and vow to eat craft rather than Kraft. The bread, cheese, pickles, and jam we buy from small-batch producers at the farmers market and carry home in NPR totes are worth the cost to us: After all, they usually taste better than their commercial counterparts.

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A House Divided

Slate.com's Green Room - Mon, 06/24/2013 - 04:30

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa—Billyboy Ramahlele heard the riot before he saw it. It was a February evening in 1996, autumn in South Africa, when cooling breezes from the Cape of Good Hope push north and turn the hot days of the country’s agricultural heartland into sweet nights, when the city of Bloemfontein’s moonlit trees and cornfields rustle sultrily beneath a vast sky glittering with stars. The 32-year-old dormitory manager at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein was relaxing in front of a wildlife program on the TV with his door open.

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Mad Men, Season 6

Slate.com's Green Room - Mon, 06/24/2013 - 00:45

Seth, Paul—

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Supreme Court 2013: The Year in Review

Slate.com's Green Room - Sun, 06/23/2013 - 21:28

It is hard to overstate the importance of the Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision in United States v. Windsor. At issue is the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines “spouse,” and “marriage,” for all federal purposes, to exclude same-sex couples. According to the solicitor general, there are 1,138 federal laws and programs affected by this definition. As a result of DOMA, same-sex couples legally married under their own state’s laws are nonetheless denied benefits otherwise afforded to married couples under federal employment laws, Social Security laws, tax laws, immigration laws and myriad other programs.

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We’re Growing a House From Mushrooms

Slate.com's Green Room - Sun, 06/23/2013 - 07:00

Eben Bayer is the co-founder of Ecovative, a company based in Green Island, N.Y., that makes packaging from agricultural waste and the mycelium of mushrooms. He says the next step is to make building materials this way.

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Mr. Former President

Slate.com's Green Room - Sat, 06/22/2013 - 08:30

If America is the land of opportunity, it’s also a great place for reinvention and second acts. Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than in politics. Citizens from all walks of life can and do pursue elected office and often go on to new pursuits on the other side of their public service. 

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Search Engine Privacy

Slate.com's Green Room - Sat, 06/22/2013 - 07:00

Revelations about governments' online snooping have been good news for Gabriel Weinberg, founder and CEO of DuckDuckGo—a search engine that doesn't track its users. He has degrees in physics and in technology and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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The Longform Guide to The Sopranos

Slate.com's Green Room - Sat, 06/22/2013 - 06:15

Every weekend, Longform shares a collection of great stories from its archive with Slate. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s app to read the latest picks, plus features from 70 of the world’s best magazines, including Slate.

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Baseball Dads, Miranda Rights, and the Tyranny of the Smile

Slate.com's Green Room - Sat, 06/22/2013 - 06:00

“Screen Capture: Traditional TV is unstoppable. Can YouTube ever beat it?” by Farhad Manjoo. Will YouTube rise to challenge TV’s long-held primacy? It just might. Manjoo claims that YouTube’s recent upgrades, which include personalized channels and a new “serving technology” that diminishes buffering, aim to vastly improve user experience. Like television, YouTube here to stay—and, as Manjoo claims, “none of us will ever get anything done.”

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Netroots Nation Is Not Surprised

Slate.com's Green Room - Fri, 06/21/2013 - 18:24

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Six summers ago, when the online left was weaker but more optimistic than it is today, a congressional candidate from the Seattle suburbs named Darcy Burner recorded a short video on a burning topic. The Democratic-run House of Representatives had just passed the Protect America Act of 2007. According to House Democrats, the law would bind down the National Security Agency and put an end to “wireless wiretapping.” According to the law’s detractors, it did nothing of the sort; on the contrary, it redefined electronic surveillance to liberate the agency from the FISA courts. Netroots Nation—then called “Yearly Kos,” after the blog that inspired the conference—was fairly brimming with anger over what the Democrats had done.

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Monsters University

Slate.com's Green Room - Fri, 06/21/2013 - 16:30

Pixar Studios has painted itself into a corner (though because it’s Pixar, it’s an adorable corner, surrounded by top-quality enamel paint). They’ve established a reputation for themselves as the animation studio of record, the place for state-of-the-art children’s entertainment that also reliably hits the sweet spot for adults. At their best, Pixar movies can realistically aspire to the status of lasting cinematic art. (We won’t quibble here about which of these movies should enter the pantheon—I’m a partisan of Ratatouille and the Toy Story trilogy myself.)

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Why Do Americans Have the Worst DVRs?

Slate.com's Green Room - Fri, 06/21/2013 - 16:23

It took a few minutes shy of forever to get to the end of Game 1 of hockey’s Stanley Cup Final, but at least for non-Bostonians, it was worth the wait. Four hours and 38 minutes after the game began, Andrew Shaw finally scored the winning goal to push the Chicago Blackhawks past the Boston Bruins in the third overtime. The game’s not-so-sudden death didn’t come quite quickly enough for one unlucky hockey watcher. As that anonymous fan explained on Reddit, adding an extra two hours to the end of his DVR recording seemed like a smart move. But in the end, those buffer hours left him just six seconds shy of seeing the winning goal. Ain’t that a puck in the teeth.

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Supreme Court 2013: The Year in Review

Slate.com's Green Room - Fri, 06/21/2013 - 14:55

Walter notes how far to the right the court has moved in recent years, and plenty of evidence backs him up. If you look at a standard ranking of justices by how conservative their votes are (and I am looking at the third column on Page 111 of The Behavior of Federal Judges, a recent book by by Lee Epstein, Bill Landes, and our Breakfast Table interlocutor Richard Posner), you will see that Thomas, Alito, Scalia, and Roberts are the second-, fourth-, fifth-, and 11th-most conservative justices since 1937. With Walter, I suspect that Alito will rise to the top when the data set is extended beyond 2009. O’Connor is No. 14, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Walter were right that her replacement with Alito moved the court further to the right.

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Supreme Court 2013: The Year in Review

Slate.com's Green Room - Fri, 06/21/2013 - 14:20

I agree that the Supreme Court’s opinions tend to be too long. The padding often muffles the meaning, and I also think it’s one reason journalists sometimes screw up in the instant of first reporting a major decision (as some infamously did when the Obamacare ruling came down last year, and after Bush v. Gore). Another reason the opinions lend themselves to error on a quick read: They don’t have clear headlines. Would it really kill the court to say at the top of the very first page: Hey, there are two parts to this ruling. The first part was decided 5–4. Here’s the breakdown of justices, and here’s what the majority said. The second part was 7–2, and ditto. On the other hand, maybe I’m arguing against my own interest here, since the current, more confusing, setup helps me justify my three years of law school. (Watch me blow it next week!)

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How Do You Say Shaolin in Sign Language?

Slate.com's Green Room - Fri, 06/21/2013 - 14:10

When Killer Mike took the stage last week at the Bonnaroo music festival, he spotted amid the crowd a white woman rapping along to his lyrics, shaking her body and contorting her face to the beat. The Atlanta rapper has his share of white, female fans, but he quickly realized this woman was different: Holly Maniatty wasn’t, in fact, a fan, but a sign language interpreter. Intrigued by her work, the rapper jumped down from the stage to the raised platform Maniatty shared with a colleague and started dancing with them. Curious just how far he could push his interpreter, he rapped every dirty word he could think of on the spot, picking up the speed of his flow to see if Maniatty could keep pace.

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The "Can Anyone Stop This Darn Immigration Bill?" Gabfest

Slate.com's Green Room - Fri, 06/21/2013 - 13:38

Become a fan of the Political Gabfest on Facebook. We post to the Facebook page throughout the week, so keep the conversation going by joining us there. Or follow us on Twitter: @SlateGabfest!

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Sculpting a Career in Fashion

Slate.com's Green Room - Fri, 06/21/2013 - 12:23

When I first contacted Alice Wu, she had just returned from a week of meetings with store buyers and fabric suppliers in Los Angeles, but she promised to get in touch with me soon. The following week, she was on the road for sales appointments in the Pacific Northwest. Ten days later, she wrote a warm, apologetic note from a cab en route to the airport; she was about to fly to Taipei, Taiwan, to visit family before returning for another week of promoting her Feral Childe brand. In fact, Wu is almost always going about the business of making and touting her surprising creations, but she still endeavors to do even more.

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