phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Adam Gopnik on the Virginia Tech shootingwww.vox.com

Max Fisher writes in Vox “this is the best paragraph I’ve ever read on gun control and mass shootings,” quoting from Adam Gopnik in the April 30, 2007 issue of the New Yorker.

The cell phones in the pockets of the dead students were still ringing when we were told that it was wrong to ask why. As the police cleared the bodies from the Virginia Tech engineering building, the cell phones rang, in the eccentric varieties of ring tones, as parents kept trying to see if their children were OK.

Gopnik’s Comment piece ends just as strong.

There is no reason that any private citizen in a democracy should own a handgun. At some point, that simple truth will register. Until it does, phones will ring for dead children, and parents will be told not to ask why.

Link

Which U.S. State Performs Best in the New Yorker Caption Contest?www.newyorker.com

As you might expect, New York and California have the highest number of total Cartoon Caption Contest wins with 87 and 76, respectively. But they also have the most losing entries.

The United States of the New Yorker Caption Contest: Wins Per 10 Thousand Submissions
The United States of the New Yorker Caption Contest: Wins Per 10 Thousand Submissions

This map shows that Alaska is actually the most successful state in terms of wins per ten thousand submissions! Though Alaska has only won the contest twice, the fact that it had a mere 2,102 documented contest entries renders its rate of approximately 9.5 wins per ten thousand submissions the highest in the country. Mississippi, another state not commonly associated with the New Yorker crowd, comes in at a close second, with 8.14 wins per ten thousand submissions.

Link via Caitlin

T. C. Boyle’s Chicxulubwww.newyorker.com

I’m just getting back into listening to podcasts again, and noticed that the New Yorker Fiction podcast hit episode number 100. Congratulations to Deborah Treisman! If you’re not a subscriber already, definitely listen to some of the old episodes, there’s a lot of great stuff in there. This T.C. Boyle story is up there with the best of them.

Link

Fall updates

It is starting to feel like Fall here in New York, and I am up to some new things since the last time I wrote here in January (!). By the way, those New Years resolutions? They are going terribly! So it goes.

The big news, if you hadn’t heard, is that I’ve left my job at the New Yorker magazine. I am still very proud of how the redesign turned out, and I learned a ton from my many amazing colleagues there, but after two years it just felt like time for me to move on. So I am back to freelancing, and feeling excited to work on some new things. And yes, I am looking for new clients, you should hire me!

In addition to freelancing, I’ve also started a fellowship at Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. I’m working with an awesome group of collaborators using telephony and wifi darknets as tools for gathering stories. I’ll be posting more about that here in the coming weeks.

Also, if you look around, you may notice I’ve updated my WordPress theme a bit. The underlying structure is very similar to what I had before, but I focused on a few key improvements:

  1. The page layout is now responsive, so it works better on very small and very large screens.
  2. Whenever possible, I’ve minimized my reliance on third-party tools (for example, I no longer use TypeKit for my header fonts).
  3. So long green and red, hello pink! I’ve also made it easy to change the color scheme in the future through the magic of Sass variables.
  4. Comments are gone! At least for now, maybe I’ll change my mind about that. I do love getting feedback about stuff I post on here, so drop me a line if you might have otherwise left a comment.

Of all the changes in this website update, the one I feel best about is cutting out the third-party tracking. I’ve noticed that YouTube embeds serve up a DoubleClick advertising tracker, just by loading a page with a video, which isn’t cool. Now video embeds only load on demand, after you’ve hit the play button (mobile visitors may need to tap two times). Naturally, you’ll still be tracked by Google if you play an embedded YouTube video, but otherwise the page shouldn’t leak data to any off-site parties.

Third-party trackers, before and after.
Third-party trackers, before and after. Mint is the one thing I kept around, but it’s hosted on my own server.

The bottom line is I am in control of what goes up on phiffer.org, which includes things like hidden advertising trackers. Now there is slightly less ambient surveillance around here. Plus the pages should load marginally faster!

The Fire This Timewww.newyorker.com

David Remnick on the NYPD vs. Mayor de Blasio:

The police commissioner, William Bratton, was diplomatic, calling the gesture “inappropriate.” It was worse than that. It was an act of profound disrespect not only to de Blasio but also to the Ramos family members, who were there to grieve, not to witness a petulant display of resentment.

Soundtrack: Be Free by J. Cole or perhaps Come Out by Steven Reich.

Link

Leaving Facebookistanwww.newyorker.com

Steve Coll in The New Yorker’s Daily Comment:

Through its bedrock appeals to friendship, community, public identity, and activism—and its commercial exploitation of these values—Facebook is an unprecedented synthesis of corporate and public spaces. The corporation’s social contract with users is ambitious, yet neither its governance system nor its young ruler seem trustworthy.

Link

Two stories read by Colum McCann

I’d like to point out two New Yorker Fiction podcast episodes read by Colum McCann.

  1. “Transatlantic”, a story by McCann about the first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland. It’s interesting how much less familiar I was with this earlier instance than Lindbergh’s first solo flight across the Atlantic.
  2. “Bluebell Meadow” by Benedict Kiely, about a romance between a Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland. There’s something very real about how this story conveys young love, remembered later.

Also, here’s a Q&A with McCann in text form instead of the usual interview before and after the reading.

American police

Three links about American police. (One essay and two radio segments.)

  • Central Booking by Keith Gessen
    What it’s like to get arrested as a (white privileged) Occupy Wall Street protestor.

    Sitting there, with the stench from our filthy toilet filling the room, and with the filth in our filthy sink making me less eager than I ought to have been to drink from it, despite being thirsty, I became angry—really, honestly, for the first time. I thought for the first time, with genuine venom, of the hypocrite mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire, who shut down the Occupy Wall Street encampment for reasons of “health and safety” but has not deemed it worthwhile to make sure that the toilets in facilities that he has control of meet even the most minimal standards of health and safety, such that, while I watched, about forty men, eating a total of a hundred meals, over the course of a day and a half, refused to perform a single bowel movement. This was its own form of civil disobedience, I suppose, and if I’d had my wits about me maybe I could have organized a meeting of all the inmates at Bloomberg’s residence, on East Seventy-ninth Street, so that we could all take a giant shit on his front stoop.

  • A police whistle blower story from This American Life, first aired in September 2010

    For 17 months, New York police officer Adrian Schoolcraft recorded himself and his fellow officers on the job, including their supervisors ordering them to do all sorts of things that police aren’t supposed to do.

  • An interview with David M. Kennedy, author of Don’t Shoot, earlier this month on Fresh Air

    Kennedy has devoted his career to reducing gang and drug-related inner-city violence. He started going to drug markets all over the United States, met with police officials and attorney generals, and developed a program — first piloted in Boston — that dramatically reduced youth homicide rates by as much as 66 percent. That program, nicknamed the “Boston Miracle,” has been implemented in more than 70 cities nationwide.

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