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What it feels like to be the president. Plus, the best of the web this week

An intimate portrait of President Obama. The amazing things American diplomats do on our behalf. What school lunches look like in 20 different countries. A profile of the man who may revolutionize space travel. And more! Enjoy.


Politics and World Affairs

Obama's Way / Michael Lewis / Vanity Fair

This article is as close as you're likely to get to understanding what it's like to be president of the United States of America.




America's Other Army / Nicholas Kralev / Foreign Policy

The author interviews hundreds of American diplomats and shares some of their stories to remind us of the difficult, wide-ranging, and sometimes dangerous job they do on our behalf. (via @joshdan)




"Everything People Think They Know About The Stimulus Is Wrong" / Ezra Klein / The Washington Post

Lots of interesting insights — both political and economic — in this interview with Michael Grunwald, author of a new book about the stimulus.




The Tweeps On The Bus / Marc Tracy / The New Republic

Fascinating article on how Twitter is changing political coverage, and how BuzzFeed went from Lolcats to Lolcats and serious political reporting.




Arts and Culture

Natives On The Boat / Teju Cole / The New Yorker

A jewel of an essay on Cole's encounter with V.S. Naipaul, the brilliant and problematic writer. Deeply rewarding reading.





The Disappeared / Salman Rushdie / The New Yorker

Riveting: Rushdie tells the story (in the third person) of writing "The Satanic Verses," of having the fatwa issued against him, and of trying to hold on as his life fell apart.





20 School Lunches From Around The World / Amy Graff / San Francisco Chronicle

A revealing slideshow and short article. Oh, to be a child in France. Woe to the poor child who goes to public school U.S., though...




Who Does Your College Think Its Peers Are? / Andrea Fuller and Bryan O'Leary / The Chronicle of Higher Education

A map displaying "comparison data" submitted by colleges, showing connections — both actual and aspirational — between various schools. (via Sujin)




Going Forward / David Mitchell / YouTube

Entertaining two-minute rant: "If people I like are going to start saying 'going forward,' then I can no longer write it off as a thing awful people say."





Business and Economics

Black Swan Farming / Paul Graham

Outstanding essay by the founder of innovative venture capital firm Y Combinator on the struggle between intuitions and data when investing in startups.




Who Wants To Be A Billionaire? / Randall Stross / Vanity Fair

Good profile of Y Combinator's methodology in action, following one startup all the way through the process from application to selection to demo day.




Elon Musk, The 21st Century Industrialist / Ashlee Vance / Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Fun profile of the entrepreneur said to be the model for Tony Stark in the "Iron Man" movies, and whose Tesla Motors and SpaceX could revolutionize both cars and space travel.





Amazon's Play / John Gruber / Daring Fireball

Very interesting take on Amazon's strategy for the Kindle, which is not only clever but also effectively undermines Apple.





Global Debt Clock / The Economist

Want to feel better about America's debt? Roll over Japan, where the public debt per person is over $100k, on this interactive map.




Science and Technology

William Moggridge, Designer and Laptop Pioneer, Dies at 69 / Leslie Kaufman / The New York Times

Obituary of the man who cofounded the iconic design firm IDEO and invented your laptop's clamshell design.




Creativity / Om Malik / GigaOm

An important point: "Instead of space, the true limitation of the Internet is attention." (Though he undermines the broader point of the post with a clumsy second paragraph.)




Revolights / Kent Frankovich and Adam Pettler

This is a really smart idea for how to improve bicycle safety, and it's beautiful to boot.




GetHuman

Another smart idea: a site listing customer service numbers that put you in touch with real people instead of automated menus at over 8,000 companies.





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Education

12 books that people say are life-changing reads

Some books have the power to change how we see ourselves, the world, and each other.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Books are powerful.

As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Out of all human inventions, books might just be the greatest. That may be a bold statement in the face of computers, the internet and the international space station, but none of those things would be possible without books. The written recording of human knowledge has allowed our advancements in learning to be passed on through generations, not to mention the capturing of human creativity in the form of longform storytelling.

Books have the power to change our lives on a fundamental level, shift our thinking, influence our beliefs, put us in touch with our feelings and help us understand ourselves and one another better.

That's why we asked Upworthy's audience to share a book that changed their life. Thousands of responses later, we have a list of inspiring reads that rose to the top.

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Community

Man uses social media to teach others ASL so kids don't experience what he did as a child

Every child should be able to communicate in a way that works best for them.

Man teaches people ASL so no child experiences what he did

People start communicating from the moment they enter the world usually through cries, faces, grunts and squeals. Once infants move into the toddler phase the combine all of their previous communication skills with pointing and saying a few frequently used words like "milk," "mama," "dada" and "eat."

Children who are born without the ability to hear often still go through those same stages with the exception of their frequently used words being in sign language. But not all hearing parents know sign language, which can stunt the language skills of their non-hearing child. Ronnie McKenzie is an American Sign Language advocate that uses social media to teach others how to sign so deaf and nonverbal kids don't feel left out.

"But seriously i felt so isolated 50% of my life especially being outside of school i had NONE to sign ASL with. Imagine being restricted from your own language," McKenzie writes in his caption.

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Family

Wife says husband's last name is so awful she can't give it to her kids. Is she right?

"I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything, and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c’mon."

A wife pleads with her husband to change their child's name.

Even though it’s 2023 and schools are much more concerned with protecting children from bullying than in the past, parents still have to be aware that kids will be kids, and having a child with a funny name is bound to cause them trouble.

A mother on Reddit is concerned that her future children will have the unfortunate last name of “Butt,” so she asked people on the namenerds forum to help her convince her husband to name their child something different.

(Note: We’re assuming that the person who wrote the post is a woman because their husband is interested in perpetuating the family name, and if it were a same-sex relationship, a husband probably wouldn’t automatically make that assumption.)

"My husband’s last name is Butt. Can someone please help me illuminate to him why this last name is less than ideal,” she asked the forum. “I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c'mon. Am I being unreasonable by suggesting our future kid either take my name, a hybrid, or a new one altogether?"

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Joy

Bus driver comes to the rescue for boy who didn't have an outfit for school's Pajamas Day

“It hurt me so bad…I wanted him to have a good day. No child should have to miss out on something as small as pajama day.”

Representative Image from Canva

One thoughtful act can completely turn someone's day around.

On the morning just before Valentine’s Day, school bus driver Larry Farrish Jr. noticed something amiss with Levi, one of his first grade passengers, on route to Engelhard Elementary, part of Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) in Louisville, Kentucky.

On any other day, the boy would greet Farrish with a smile and a wave. But today, nothing. Levi sat down by himself, eyes downcast, no shining grin to be seen. Farrish knew something was up, and decided to inquire.

With a “face full of tears,” as described on the JCPS website, Levi told Farrish that today was “Pajama Day” at school, but he didn’t have any pajamas to wear for the special occasion.
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via Imgur

Memories of testing like this gets people fired up.

It doesn't take much to cause everyone on the internet to go a little crazy, so it's not completely surprising that an incorrect answer on a child's math test is the latest event to get people fired up.

The test in question asked kids to solve "5 x 3" using repeated addition. Under this method, the correct answer is "5 groups of 3," not "3 groups of 5." The question is typical of Common Core but has many questioning this type of standardized testing and how it affects learning.

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Image from YouTube video.

An emotional and strong Matt Diaz.


Matt Diaz has worked extremely hard to lose 270 pounds over the past six years.

But his proudest moment came in March 2015 when he decided to film himself with his shirt off to prove an important point about body positivity and self-love.

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