Oh, internets, why must you always be feast or famine? This week, I am buried under the avalanche of things to read. Some of it is even good news! Like for example! "Ultra-secret national security letters that come with a gag order on the recipient are an unconstitutional impingement on free speech, a federal judge in California ruled in a decision released Friday," writes Kim Zetter in Wired, and you better believe I could not hit EFF's DONATE button fast enough after I was through reading.
Also, because I truly believe this qualifies as good news, "Fathers with children younger than 18 are now about as likely as mother to say they feel pressed for time and have difficulty balancing the demands of work and home," writes Brigid Schulte at The Washington Post following the release of a new report by the Pew Research Center. Consider this your inoculation against whatever new salvo in the Mommy Wars™ gets released next week. (Via Elizabeth Lower-Basch.)
And this, from Anya Kamentz at Fast Company, on "How Etsy Attracted 500 Percent More Female Engineers." (Spoiler: by paying to train junior-level prospects rather than trying to poach a few people from within Silicon Valley's inadequate stock of female engineers.)
It wasn't all good news, alas. (I know, you're shocked.) From Annalyn Kurtz at CNN Money, an excellent profile of the burgeoning job opportunities for home health aides — positions that pay so poorly that "about 40% of home aides rely on public assistance, such as Medicaid and food stamps, just to get by." (Via Suzy Khimm.)
This story is an outrage from start to finish: the death of a disabled man in a Los Angeles courtroom, where he was (futilely) attempting to seek restitution from Wells Fargo for having foreclosed on his condo based on a typographical error even after the corporation had acknowledged the error. By Jessica Ogilvie for LA Weekly. (Via Lili Loofbourow.)
From the other side of the country, in a week in which there were any number of reasons to be appalled at Mayor Bloomberg's New York, a five-part series at CityLimits.org by Diane Jeantet on the utter failure of what was supposed to be "a comprehensive effort to dramatically reduce homelessness in New York." (Via ProPublica.)
Rania Abouzeid with an unbearable and beautiful essay at The New Yorker answering the question, "What does the Syrian war look like?"
"But it's possible the boys around them, who were teenagers, had no idea that if the girl was repeatedly vomiting and unable to walk or generally communicate, what they were seeing met the legal definition of rape and they should have done everything they could to stop it." Deeply depressing but important piece about rape culture and the Steubenville case, by Irin Carmon at Salon.
Also deeply depressing! A new study finds that "babies prefer individuals who harm, rather than help, characters who are different from them." By Carolyn Y. Johnson at Boston.com. (Via Ruth Graham, who said, "Uncool, babies. Uncool.")
"For a 25-year-old computer whiz enlisted in a People's Liberation Army hacking unit, life was all about low pay, drudgery and social isolation," writes Barbara Demick for the Los Angeles Times in an investigation of the personal blogs of some unhappy Chinese military hackers. (Via Melissa Chan.)
"'Rusty should call his congressman,' Wenk said in frustration, rubbing his eyes." From Lisa Rein at The Washington Post, a really first-rate story about the sequester's effect on Yellowstone National Park. (Via Jennifer Steinhauer.)
At Boing Boing, Jessica Morrison writes about "Ships of Opportunity" — commercial vessels that allow ocean scientists to conduct research onboard in a tradition that stretches back at least as far as the 17th century. (Via Maggie Koerth-Baker.)
Via Anne Jefferson, Paige Brown at SciAm writes about the results of a recent long-term study at Plum Island Estuary that showed for the first time that nitrates and phosphates cause salt marshes to actually crumble — taking with them the ability of the marsh to protect inland areas from storm surges. (Here also is a Boston Globe article from October by Beth Daley on the same study, which better answers questions I immediately had about HOLY FUCK WHY DID THEY DELIBERATELY DAMAGE THE PLUM ISLAND ESTUARY?)
"Being a heterosexual male was oddly linked with liking 'being confused after waking from naps.'" Maia Szalavitz at Time with the somewhat idiosyncratic insights uncovered by yet another study on Facebook likes.
From Michelle Nijhuis at The Last Word on Nothing, a haunting short essay about a single victim of the Khmer Rouge genocide: "The Flower of Dangerous Love."
"Salma was 12 years old when she began menstruating. Her family pulled her out of school and locked her up at home. This is standard practice in Salma's village." From Deepanjana Pal, a review of a documentary by Kim Longinotto profiling the incredible courage and determination of a Tamil poet. (Via Genderlog India.)
"An average American newspaper-reader in the first decade of the last century immediately understood, if he read that something was 'of the Mary MacLane type,' that this name was shorthand for outsized self-absorption of a specifically feminine nature." Emily Gould at The Rumpus on the reissue of two of MacLane's books.
For our post-VIDA-count hangover, a comprehensive essay by Kira Cochrane in The Guardian on the legacy of Britain's 1970s-era feminist publishing companies, asking, "Forty years since it first started, are female writers taken as seriously in the literary world as their male counterparts and given an equal shot at longevity?"(Via Genderlog India.)
Also, this is pretty cool: Erin Kissane talks to Irene Ros and Nathan Matias about their work on the Open Gender Tracker, "an open source deployable service, funded by a Knight Foundation Prototype grant, which calculates the diversity breakdown of your content through various metrics such as the author's gender." (Which, as someone who often feels I'm spending half my life googling people with gender-indeterminate names, I can testify that such metrics are not always clear-cut!)
"But the programs have difficulty imparting to their students a central truth of most authors' lives: Nobody cares about your work. When it comes to books, the supply is much larger than the demand." Laura Miller dropping truth at Salon. (Via Amanda Katz.)
"Books are meant to be read. This is what I say to myself whenever I, with some level of despair, glance at my many bookshelves." Michele Filgate delightfully making Miller's point for her in a meditation on an art exhibit called "The Library of Unborrowed Books."
Again Laura Miller at Salon, practicing what she preaches with a very fun book review of Marlene Zuk's new book, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet and How We Live. (Via Elif Batuman, who asked, "Did Paleolithic Man have it all?")
I think The Billfold is publishing some of the best young writers around, so I highly recommend this profile of editor Logan Sachon by Molly Minturn for The University of Virginia Magazine. (Via Maria Bustillos.) For a sample of Sachon's own work, here's this week's Important Feminist Question: "Can Single People With No Responsibilities Whatsoever Have It All?"
I often cut articles if I can't find a single perfect sentence to excerpt from it, but in this case there is only no quote because it's all, well, a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Carrie Frye at The Awl with, "How To Be A Monster: Life Lessons From Lord Byron." (Via Maria Bustillos.)
Finally. "When in doubt, add a hashtag, my grandmother used to sing cheerily in the kitchen over a bubbling pot of hashed tags. She's dead now, but she used to be so alive. 'It's the hashtags,' she'd announce feistily whenever a reporter knocked on her willow cabin to inquire about the source of her longevity.'" Mallory Ortberg at Gawker. (For those of you long-suffering souls who follow my personal account, you will be glad to know that I vow to herewith repent of my hashtag-abusing ways. Yes! We are all about Changing Lives here at Phantom's List!)