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The Week’s Best Articles – 03/02/18

This week’s highlights:  Meta-Narratives and Escapism, Chaos Theory and Warehouse Design, Autonomous and Mapping


Fifteen on Friday – 03/02/18 – Issue 275

Welcome to March and to Fifteen on Friday – our weekly curation of the most interesting articles of the week.

Whatever your political leanings and background, it seems universally agreeable that we are having a cultural moment in which an old system is showing strain, and what comes in its place remains to be determined.  In that spirit, the first three articles this week, look at what happens when the dominant meta-narrative (or cultural operating system) comes under pressure.  Some may make the case for escapism (ala Peter Thiel), while the young look to re-architect the environment to their suiting.  Much to consider.

All the best,


Food for Thought:

  1. NYMag – Has the Operating System for the Western World Crashed?
  2. TheGuardian – Why Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand  How an extreme libertarian tract predicting the collapse of liberal democracies – written by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s father – inspired the likes of Peter Thiel to buy up property across the Pacific
  3. NYT – A Generation Emerging From the Wreckage  “I’ve been going around to campuses asking undergraduate and graduate students how they see the world. Most of the students I’ve met with so far are at super-competitive schools — Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago and Davidson — so this is a tiny slice of the rising generation. Still, their comments are striking.”
  4. NashvillePost – Still building.  After almost 20 years as the President of Belmont University, Bob Fisher has left quite an impression  Enrollment has grown from 3,000 to 8,000, 10 new buildings, and new degree programs.  This is a thoughtful look back at all the changes at a relatively small, maybe somewhat sleepy, Baptist university that is climbing into the limelight.
  5. Tennessean – A slave taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. She’s made telling his story her life’s work.


  1. QZ – Amazon – This company built one of the world’s most efficient warehouses by embracing chaos.  This was mind-blowing to read.  Amazon’s warehouses have goods distributed at random rather than everything stored together in an orderly fashion.
  2. Racked – Why Is It So Hard for Clothing Manufacturers to Pay a Living Wage? H&M promised to make sure the people who make the company’s clothes can live on their pay, but the benchmarks have shifted.
  3. WashPo – REI, Mountain Equipment Co-Op stop selling major outdoor brand with NRA ties.  Gun control is certainly a hot button issue.  This piece is a fascinating look at how one public company with a firearms division is seeing clients of another division withhold business.  Policy making through the free market perhaps.
  4. HBR – When CEOs’ Equity Is About to Vest, They Cut Investment to Boost the Stock Price Yet another facet of the principal/agent problem of public company leadership.
  5. BusinessWeek – Harvard Blew $1 Billion in Bet on Tomatoes, Sugar, and Eucalyptus – Credit PK – The university’s highly paid money managers thought they could manage risks other schools avoided


  1. NYMag – Worst Roommate Ever “You’ve got your whole life in front of you. You’re pretty, you’ve got this house — well, you don’t have this house anymore. This house is my house.”
  2. AoM – How to Read More Books This Year  I’m going to whisper the secret to reading a lot of books. Are you ready? You need to spend more time reading.
  3. Bloomberg – Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again Self-driving cars need painfully detailed data on every inch of street. Can automakers solve the problem without the reigning superpower of maps?
  4. Jalopnik – The New F1 Halo Doesn’t Look That Bad For Drivers, After All That.  Looking to improve the safety of open-wheeled racing, Formula 1 debuts a new addition to the car that better protects the driver’s head from crashes and debris.
  5. CM – How a Can of Guinness Works  Whether you’re a fan or not, there’s something magical about a freshly—and properly—poured pint of Guinness. The way that creamy head forms at the top, and the tiny bubbles cascade down into the deep dark abyss. It’s a work of art. But that art—those cascading bubbles and creamy velvet-smooth head—isn’t magic. It’s science. More specifically, it’s nitrogen.


The Week’s Best Articles – 02/16/18

This week’s highlights:  Meritocracy, Luxury Trucks, and Prepping Fido for Instagram Fame.


Fifteen on Friday – 02/16/18 – Issue 273

Meritocracy at what cost?

In his 2000 best seller, Bobos In Paradise, David Brooks noted that among the most consequential changes in American society was an ill-noticed shift in the late 1950s by the then-President of Harvard to begin prioritizing achievement on the SAT as a key admissions criteria, even super-ceding social standing and legacy status at times.

This choice arguably may mark the beginning of the great educational arms race.  Here we are over 60 years later, and society has shifted in meaningful ways as a result.  The first two articles featured this week explore the long-run impacts of this change at the societal level and in the life of an individual child with much to consider for us all.

Enjoy the weekend,


Food for Thought:

  1. Economist – Meritocracy and its discontents.  A book published 60 years ago predicted most of the tensions tearing contemporary Britain apart.
  2. ScientificAmerican – The Case for the “Self-Driven Child”.  In a new book, an argument for giving children more of a sense of control over their lives.
  3. WakeForestMag – First Among Equals How the black minister of a First Baptist church and the white minister of the other First Baptist church in Macon, Georgia, are working to heal racial divisions and transform community.
  4. VanityFair – When Old Hollywood’s Doors Opened for Tom Brokaw. When Brokaw moved to Los Angeles to become the 11 o’clock anchor, he found Hollywood’s doors magically open. Half a century later, he writes about getting to know the likes of Cary Grant, Bob Hope, and Rosalind Russell.
  5. The Globe and Mail – I have forgotten how to read. For a long time Michael Harris convinced himself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate him from our new media climate – that he could keep on reading in the old way because his mind was formed in pre-internet days. He was wrong.


  1. Wired – Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook – And The World How a confused, defensive social media giant steered itself into a disaster, and how Mark Zuckerberg is trying to fix it all.
  2. NYT – More Luxury Buyers Ditch the Imports and Pick Up a Truck  The priciest S.U.V.s and trucks are selling fastest. The high-end Lariat, King Ranch and Raptor models make up more than half of all F-150 sales,
  3. ProPublica – How VW Paid $25 Billion for Dieselgate — And Got Off Easy.  Volkswagen paid huge government penalties in the U.S., but virtually nothing in Europe. Two things now seem clear: Some very senior officials knew of the wrongdoing — and they’re not likely to face meaningful prison time.
  4. Economist – The next generation of wireless technology is ready for take-off Whizzy 5G tech has everything going for it barring a strong business case.
  5. SN – I Bought An Entire Outfit From Instagram Ads.  This interesting Youtube video looks at how Instagram and Facebook use your preferences from ‘likes’ and data from tracking your web movements to serve you ads in hopes to answer the question of how well their algorithms really know you.  Note – must speak fluent Millennial to watch.


  1. ODD – The Best Way to Lose $5 Billion Dollars.   What NOT to Do to Stay Rich, Courtesy of the Vanderbilts
  2. SWA – After School Special – Credit BF – How one group of New Yorkers is changing the world of adult education, one free beer at a time.
  3. NYT – Is Your Dog Ready for Instagram?
  4. NYP – Oprah’s iconic ‘You get a car!’ moment was crazier than you thought
  5. NYT – Carolina Herrera’s Last Bow.  The designer is waving goodbye to the runway and hello to a new job. Whatever you do, don’t use the word retirement.
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