Reviewed: The Fifth Sacred Thing, Walking to Mercury, and City of Refuge, all by Starhawk. Discussed: Hippies, Earth Wind and Fire, Utopias, Problems Encountered When Writing Utopias, Counter-Cultural Trends, The Martian, Francis Bacon, and Humanistic Education.

To write Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion lived in the Haight-Ashbury back in ’68 and wrote about what she saw — a feeble attempt to form a counter-culture, a counter-culture which in her mind attracted nothing other than drugs, dropouts, and dramatis hippae. According to Didion, the people involved wanted little more than to either get high, join a club, not go to war…


The film Hillbilly Elegy follows the story of Yale Law student J.D. Vance, who is called away from his shiny, high-society trajectory back to his Appalachian home to deal with an acute family medical crisis. As he visits, we learn via flashback about Vance’s family’s troubled past, and just what sort of odds Vance overcame to make it to Yale. The film, directed by Ron Howard, is based on a memoir of the same name by, you guessed it, J.D. Vance.

Thematically, Hillbilly Elegy is a combination of Good Will Hunting and The Florida Project. Though all three films are…


Rush Hour along Detroit’s Gratiot Avenue in the 1940s

In discussing global warming, everyone talks about systemic change; few propose ways to actually do it. Here I present the results of some research I’ve engaged in for the last few months, which are initial steps into the kind of societal systems re-thinking we will need to engage in to soften the blow of climate change.

The Short Version: Traffic robs us of all that is holy. It’s what happens when our road system fails to handle the difference between peak demand and off-peak usage. One reason we have congestion, whether part of the weekday or the weekend rush, is…


A picture of a recent Wikipedia appeal for money.
A picture of a recent Wikipedia appeal for money.

By now, I imagine, we are all familiar with Wikipedia's Appeals for donations. I am an avid fan of Wikipedia, I use it all the time, and I want the appeal to be successful.

I find the text above interesting because the implicit messaging is in direct conflict with the explicit goal of getting people to donate money. For example, if boiled down to a sentence, the logic of the text goes: Nearly 100% of people do not donate to Wikipedia, Wikipedia is a non-profit that depends on donations, therefore you should donate.

Though this argument may make internal sense…


In 1833, near the tail end of the first industrial revolution, the British government passed the Factory Act, which made it illegal to do then-profitable things like employ kids younger than 9 and employ 9–13-year-olds for more than 9 hours a day.

Today, a handful of tech ethicists and non-profits are pushing for the concept of consumer-facing tech regulation. However, I have seen very few specific proposals that address screen addiction, and so I’ve written up five policies below. (My street credentials: I’ve worked as a Data Scientist in Silicon Valley for ~5 years). …


The latest IPCC report says that we have about 12 years to curb emissions and do something about climate change to keep the world from warming by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Anyone involved in climate science will tell you that the IPCC is intentionally conservative in an attempt to prevent backlash and charges of fearmongering. Thus the question before us is not so much who will save us (because if we pull it off, it will be due to the actions of a large number of people) but which groups will visibly lead the charge?

Systemically speaking, neither a…


Dear Southwest,

I have been flying with you for roughly ten years, and I routinely travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco. While coming home for the winter holidays, the plane I was on needed be cleared to fly. As we sat on the tarmac with some spare time and not a lot of spare space, I started thinking about the design challenges involved with flying. I’ve taken the liberty of writing out some thoughts.

One way of thinking about your product is that there are three containers of “user experience”:
A) using the website to book a flight
B)…


While watching The Threepenny Opera last night, it struck me that it’s high time to liberally borrow from Brecht (as Brecht borrowed from The Beggar’s Opera) and create “The Three-Bitcoin Opera.”

Set in modern-day San Francisco…

Jonathan Peachum is an SEO strategist who helps people organize online fundraising campaigns. He heavily pushes people to milk sympathy in whatever way they can, and this often takes the form of dishonest medical fundraising. In fact, he makes sure you have to pay protection money to him in order to run anything. He’s helped by his wife, Celia.

Macheath is the founder of…


Congratulations! You’ve picked up a copy of the latest Silicon Valley dating advice. Everything you need to know about having a deeply fulfilling relationship can be found in the next eight chapters. For convenience, we’ve extracted highlights and summarized the key points of each chapter in this table of contents.

Chapter 1: Beginnings. You and your partner are “co-founders.” You should start referring to each other as such. Finding the right cofounder can be an arduous task, adding more co-founders down the line is also a possibility but shouldn’t be done without plenty of discussion.

Chapter 2: Metrics. Before committing…


A Review

The musical The Band’s Visit is exactly as authentic and imperfect as its characters, and in that it is perfect. Imperfect characters, of course, are those that are portrayed with non-cartoonish depth. So by “imperfect” what I really mean is a certain fullness you don’t see in the characters or plot of Mean Girls (movie and musical), for example.

The device that kicks off this Tony-sweeping, technically-a-farce adaptation from an identically titled Israeli film is that Arabic speakers often replace the /p/ sound with /b/. Thus the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, hoping to go to Petach Tikvah, lands…

Evan Warfel

Data Scientist. Writer. Humanist

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