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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