The problem with men explaining things. Plus, the best of the web this week.

The best of the Web this week includes an explanation of "mansplaining," an amazing art project in China, 61 things you didn't know about hoboes, five tricks Facebook uses when dealing with your privacy, and more. Enjoy!


Arts and Culture

The Problem With Men Explaining Things / Rebecca Solnit / Mother Jones

This piece floored me. You should read it, especially if you're a man. Or a woman.





Obituary: Neil Armstrong / The Economist

An amazing man and story: "The original landing area turned out to be full of large boulders. ... By the time he found his spot, there was only 25 seconds of fuel left in the thanks."




61 Things I Learned At The National Hobo Convention / Matt Stopera / BuzzFeed

A wonderful story, animated by curiosity and genuine interest. Lots of gems, including: "6. When a hobo dies, they are said to have 'caught the Westbound.'"




Green Pedestrian Crossing In China Creates Leaves From Footprints / Christopher Jobson / Colossal

Art and advocacy meet in this clever and beautiful campaign.




Politics and World Affairs

I'm Right, You're Wrong And Other Political Truths / Ramesh Ponnuru / Bloomberg

Finally, something people from both parties can all agree on!




Fear Of A Black President / Ta-Nehisi Coates / The Atlantic

A searching and sobering consideration of race relations in America, and of the poignant mixture of disappointment and pride Coates finds in Obama and his administration.




What I Learned At Bain Capital / Mitt Romney / The Wall Street Journal

Romney makes the case for how his business experience has equipped him to turn around the economy.




So, Mitt, What Do You Really Believe? / The Economist

Ouch: "A businessman without a credible plan to fix a problem stops being a credible businessman. So does a businessman who tells you one thing at breakfast and the opposite at supper." (via Maurice)




The Reality Of Trying To Shrink Government / Lawrence Summers / The Washington Post

Important perspective: "For structural reasons, even preserving the amount of government functions that predated the financial crisis will require substantial increases in the share of U.S. economy devoted to the public sector."




Business and Economics

The Cheapest Generation / Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissman / The Atlantic

Car and home ownership are down significantly among millennials, with many interesting explanations and implications. One insight: "young people prize 'access over ownership.'"




The Acqui-Hire Scourge: Whatever Happened To Failure In The Valley? / Sarah Lacy / PandoDaily

Interesting and well-argued piece. "Everyone loves to say that Silicon Valley's great strength is an acceptance of failure." But widespread acquisitions may be undermining this.




The Case For Spending A Little More Sometimes / Carl Richards / The New York Times

Simple advice: Avoid the temptation of cheap and disposable, and invest in things that are worth owning for the long haul.





Tootsie's Secret Empire / Ben Kesling / The Wall Street Journal

A fun story on the candy company's secretive, and aging, CEO. Plus, this great lede: "How many licks does it take to get to the center of Tootsie Roll Industries? No one really knows."




Smart Service Design Needs A New Language For Anonymity / Jan Chipcase / Co.Design

Some interesting nuggets on the value, and dangers, of personal recognition in customer service. (via @dbkahn)




Science and Technology

Digital Scarcity / Tuhin Kumar

Soon enough, digital "... will replace physical as the primary dimension in which we spend our time. ... We need to find a better way to tell others what is worth their time."





5 Design Tricks Facebook Uses To Affect Your Privacy Decisions / Avi Charkham / TechCrunch

Side-by-side comparisons show a concerted effort to make it less clear what permissions you're granting.




Apple V. Samsung Verdict Is In: $1 Billion Loss For Samsung / Joe Mullin / Ars Technica

Interesting context: "Apple's ultimate target is Google," whose Android operating system so enraged Steve Jobs that he promised "thermonuclear war."




The Worldfalls / Oliver Morton / Heliophage

A short, vivid mental image that will change the way you think about energy, from the author of a book on photosynthesis called "Eating the Sun."




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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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