The Profile: America’s ghost kitchens & the most miserable company in tech

I love stories of coincidence — particularly the ones that make you shake your head in disbelief, and say, “No way. What are the chances?” 

You probably fall into one of two camps of people. If you’re in the first, you attribute the coincidence to statistical probability and math. If you’re in the second, you credit a greater power and call it serendipity. 

Coincidences break the monotony of everyday life, and because they’re typically unusual, they stand out in our minds. And then, we assign meaning to them and boom, we’ve got a fascinating story to tell generations to come.

Over the weekend, I listened to an awesome This American Life podcast episode called, “No Coincidence, No Story,” on exactly this phenomenon. The show asked listeners to send their best coincidence stories, and they received more than 1,300 submissions. From a chance encounter at a bus station to a romantic dollar bill, host Sarah Koenig speaks with people about their mind-boggling coincidences.

Check out this crazy story: 

A few years ago, after Stephen Lee proposed to his girlfriend Helen, they brought their families together for the first time to celebrate the engagement.

Stephen Lee: My mom and my stepdad came to New York to meet with Helen's parents. And basically, over the course of dinner and coffee afterwards, we discovered that my father had dated my wife's mother back in Korea in the 1960s and he had proposed to her-- 

Sarah Koenig: I'm going to slow this down a sec, just to let it sink in. Helen's mother had almost married Stephen's father — his late father, actually. He died when Stephen was 17. And how this all came out was that after they had dinner, they went back to Stephen's apartment and they were looking at Stephen's family photographs. 

Stephen Lee: So my future mother-in-law's flipping through the album and she sees my dad. And so she asks, oh, oh, what was his name? And my mom tells the name. And my future mother-in-law just nods and moves on and keeps on flipping through the book — doesn't even say anything.

So Helen's mother says nothing, goes home. But later that night, she tells her daughter, this was the one. This was the man who might have been. She explained that the reason they hadn't married was because her father — Helen's grandfather — had chosen a different husband for her — the man who became Helen's father. All of them ended up living in the US, but they quickly lost touch. And Stephen didn't find out about any of this until a couple of days later.

I’m sure you can mathematically figure out the odds of this happening, but Stephen chose to assign meaning to it: “My dad is somehow behind all this — that somehow he's helped make all this happen.” 

And it makes for an insane, amazing story right? As Sarah Koeing says near the end, “A good coincidence is like a good magic trick. When you see one, a struggle ensues instantaneously between the thrill of the apparent miracle and the urge to debunk it.”

👉  Reply to this email with your best coincidence stories, and if I get enough, I’ll share a compilation in a future newsletter. 🙏

On to this week’s stories:

— The world’s greatest adventurer
— The founders building the Silicon Valley of the South
— The money managers on the autism spectrum
— The most miserable company in tech [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— America’s ghost restaurants
— The billion-dollar horse gambler

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The world’s greatest adventurer: Explorers Colin O’Brady and Louis Rudd spent almost two months racing across Antarctica, a journey that killed an adventurer who attempted it in 2016. O’Brady stunned the world after successfully finishing the treacherous expedition. Now, he’s on tour with a message he wants to share with the world: We all have a reservoir of untapped potential within us, and only our own minds can prevent us from accessing it. (Outside Magazine)

“What’s your Everest? Not what’s hers or your mom’s or what the school thinks or the guidance counselor, but what is your answer to that question?”

The founders building the Silicon Valley of the South: The Atlanta metro area has the second-fastest-growing economy in the country (behind San Francisco), spurred by its tech industry. Now, Tristan Walker, Jewel Burks Solomon, Paul Judge, and other founders are part of a startup revolution that’s bringing tech talent, venture capital money, and serious change to the black mecca of Atlanta. Can they avoid Silicon Valley’s mistakes? (Fast Company)

“I moved here 14 days ago, because I believe in us—and by us, I mean black folks. Our ability to influence culture, our buying power, our influence on the world, is palpable and important.”

The money managers on the autism spectrum: People with Asperger’s syndrome, the term still commonly used for one of the most well-known forms of autism spectrum disorder, bring serious advantages to the financial markets: extreme focus, a facility with numbers, a willingness to consider unpopular opinions, a strong sense of logic, and an intense belief in fairness and justice. But, like other autistic employees, they often feel alienated from their managers, colleagues, and clients. Sometimes they simply get fired. This is a really well-done story. (Institutional Investor)

“The world has enough smart and pedigreed people, but what it lacks is courage to act on your beliefs when different. I truly do think my autism is a superpower in many ways.”


The most miserable company in tech: Google used to be the happiest company in tech. Not anymore. In recent years, Google has found itself in the same position over and over again: a nearly $800 billion planetary force seemingly powerless against groups of employees—on the left and the right alike—who are holding the company hostage to its own public image. Take a look inside Google’s internal strife. (Wired)

“I went from ‘Oh my god, who leaked that?’ to ‘Oh my god, management did what?!’”

America’s ghost kitchens: Imagine a restaurant with no physical storefront, no dining room, no waiters, no tables, and no chairs. Dubbed “virtual restaurants,” these establishments exist only within the UberEats delivery app. These days, all restaurants need is a kitchen — or even just part of one. Then they can market their food to the app’s customers, without the hassle and expense of hiring waiters or paying for furniture. Diners who order from the apps may have no idea that the restaurant doesn’t physically exist. Welcome to 2019. (The New York Times)

“If you don’t use delivery apps, you don’t exist.”


The billion-dollar horse gambler: Veteran gamblers know you can’t beat the horses. Play for long enough, and failure is inevitable. Bill Benter took that challenge — and won. He wrote an algorithm that couldn’t lose at the horse track. A billion dollars later, Benter tells his story for the first time. (Bloomberg)

“Gambling has always been the domain of wise guys from the wrong side of the track.”

The Profile: The CEO who could make or break democracy & the church of chicken

I will never forget the words of my journalism professor, the legendary Conrad Fink. In one of his college lectures, he said: “I do believe there's a higher obligation, and we as journalists need to fulfill it.”

Here’s an excerpt from his 2010 editorial writing class syllabus at the University of Georgia:

Wrap yourself around this reality: As an opinion writer in the media today you can do more good than a battalion of Red Cross volunteers. You also can do more harm than a bomb-throwing terrorist on a crowded street corner. Welcome to Editorial Writing and Issues.

I often wonder what Fink would say about the current state of media if he were around to see what’s going on today. So much harm has been done that it’s sometimes impossible to tell a news story from an editorial from complete clickbait masquerading as journalism.

I recently learned about a cool new thing The New York Times is working on called The News Provenance Project. Calling the current state of misinformation “a crisis,” the NYT aims to combat the spread of manipulated photos and false statements published as fact. News consumers who are deceived and confused, the website states, “eventually become fatigued and apathetic to news.” 

My hope is that, in the future, we can go beyond just identifying manipulated photos and videos. Regardless of who it’s cool to blame about misinformation these days, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the news media. And journalists must fulfill their “higher obligation” to their readers. Whether it’s The News Provenance Project, Substack, or my friend Mariana Heredia’s Fenix, the entire model needs to be overhauled. 

In the meantime, below are seven captivating, in-depth, well-reported stories. I hope you enjoy. 

— The CEO who could make or break democracy [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The ‘cancelled’ pop star taking back control
Hollywood’s forgotten actor
The comeback queen
— The woman infiltrating online hate groups
— The church of chicken
The new, inclusive Playboy

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The CEO who could make or break democracy: Jack Dorsey is one of the only two men in history to simultaneously run two multibillion-dollar companies (Twitter & Square) that he co-founded. The following profile tells the story of an enigmatic figure who's extremely weird, deeply private, and so slow and deliberate that one of his longtime friends compared him to Forrest Gump. The most urgent complaints about Dorsey’s pace of thinking come from people who fear that Twitter has become an imminent threat to democracy. Meanwhile, Dorsey is taking his time. (Yahoo Finance)

“Jack’s at a slower pace where he’s noticing things that the rest of us don’t notice. That’s extremely valuable to society.”

The ‘cancelled’ pop star taking back control: When you look at Taylor Swift’s career arc through a 2019 lens, the narrative changes. Would Swift’s songs about her exes be reviewed as sensationally today? Would a man dare grab the microphone out of a young woman’s hands at an awards show? Would Pitchfork refuse to review Taylor Swift’s 1989 album but choose instead to do a review on Ryan Adams’s cover album of her 1989? The answer to all of those questions is probably not. In this profile, Swift opens up about sexism, scrutiny, and standing up for herself. (Vogue)

“A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote canceled, is a very isolating experience.”

Hollywood’s forgotten actor: The divisive and mercurial actor Nicolas Cage rarely does the obvious thing. His creative unpredictability has led him to attain near-mythological status in certain corners of the internet. He acts in so many movies — 20 in the last two years — and yet so few of them make mainstream ripples. In this Q&A, he talks about nouveau shamanic acting, primal-scream therapy, and achieving a Stockhausen effect. It’s wild and fascinating. (The New York Times)

“I can’t pretend to know what people think or want to think about me.” 

The comeback queen: Despite popular belief, it was Cherilyn Sarkisian — not Kim Kardashian — who invented the “I’m famous just because.” But in 1999, Cher took her career to heights that were virtually beyond belief. And she hasn’t budged since. Here’s how the iconic artist has defied the laws of celebrity and made her fame a fact of modern life for close to six decades. (The Ringer)

“I never think of the word comeback as a slap in the face. It’s a challenge.”

The woman infiltrating online hate groups: Is it possible to stop a mass shooting before it happens? You’ve never heard of her, but somewhere in America, a top-secret investigator known as the Savant is infiltrating online hate groups to take down the most violent men in the country. She has an uncanny ability to suss out when, exactly, hate speech will morph into violent action. Some words mean nothing; others mean people are about to die. Here’s how she figures that out. (Cosmopolitan)

“The ability to recruit hate is more widespread than ever before. It’s far easier and faster.”


The church of chicken: Chick-fil-A is taking over fast food, leapfrogging rivals to become the third-largest chain in the United States. Only McDonald's and Starbucks brought in more money in the U.S. last year, and with vastly more restaurants. Chick-fil-A took the Christian principles of its founder Truett Cathy and used them to establish a fast-food chain that's more efficient, more polite, more beloved, and more controversial than any other. Take a look inside the story of how Chick-fil-A took over America. (Business Insider)

"To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A."

The new, inclusive Playboy: After a series of failed revival attempts, Playboy quietly relaunched this year. The new, socially conscious version of Playboy has meant some changes to the vernacular that has long defined it. The bunnies — the restaurant servers who work in the Playboy Clubs — are now “brand ambassadors.” The staff uses terms like “intersectionality,” “sex positivity,” “privileging” and “lived experience” to describe their editorial vision. It’s all great except for the elephant in the room — which is that Playboy is still a magazine full of nude women. Which narrative do you believe? (The New York Times)

“We talk a lot about when something is objectification versus when it is consensual objectification versus when it is art.”

The Profile: Lance Armstrong’s second act & Joe Biden’s mysterious son

Let me tell you about someone I met recently: Louis Gritsipis.

He’s the owner of an old-school Greek diner located inside of a four-story building boxed in by luxury high-rises in Midtown Manhattan. Gritsipis, who is in his late 70s, still works behind the counter of a place he’s named the 42nd Street Pizza Corporation.

Gritsipis grew up poor and became infatuated with America as a kid growing up in Kandila, Greece. After World War II, he remembers American soldiers gifting him pants and giving out flour to the community. After visiting New York at age 18, he returned to Greece and joined the NATO Navy where he became a cook on a ship.

He eventually immigrated to the United States in 1958, and bought his building for $150,000 in 1980. “Coming here with no English, no money, still I did it,” he says.

In 2000, developers offered him $10 million for the building, which has three two-bedroom apartments along with the diner on the ground floor. 

And then Gritsipis did something crazy. He turned it down — and has continued to turn down lucrative offers ever since. “Even if they give me $1 billion, I will not sell,” he told The New York Times. “Where am I going to go? This is my Park Avenue, my Fifth Avenue.”

He adds, “What am I going to do with the money? I’m happy with what I have, whether it’s one dollar or 500. I have my health. I work 16, 17 hours a day and didn’t go to a doctor for the first time until I was 65.” 

Gritsipis embodies the American Dream in a way that is admirable, but the reality of his situation is also incredibly sad. The neighborhood has changed dramatically since he first bought the building. With Hudson Yards nearby, it’s turned into a billionaire’s playground, and Gritsipis feels he is being pushed out. He pays almost $70,000 in annual property taxes, while many of his new high-rise neighbors receive tax abatements. Gritsipis is hoping his son keeps running the family business when he’s older, but that’s also uncertain.

“I tell him, ‘This is going to be yours one day,’” Gritsipis’ wife said. “And he says, ‘What am I going to do? Can I be strong like my father? Can I resist?’”

Are there stories like this one in your community? I’d love to hear them -- reply to this email & send them my way.

Here we go:

— Lance Armstrong’s second act [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— Joe Biden’s mysterious son
— The first Gen Z superstar
— The man outsmarting the robots
— The star grappling with trauma
— The billion-dollar streetwear brand
— The In-N-Out burger billionaire

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Lance Armstrong’s second act: During his professional cycling career, Lance Armstrong was known as a heroic cancer survivor who went on to win the Tour de France a record seven times. He was also, of course, a cheater—the leader of a team that, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, “ran the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” Armed with a popular podcast and a new venture capital firm, Armstrong is attempting to make a return in the good graces of the public. Can he find a way back?

“Tim Ferris, Chris Sacca, Gary Vaynerchuk—they all do this. Nobody does it specifically dedicated to this world—endurance, outdoors, health and fitness.”

Joe Biden’s mysterious son: Presidential candidate Joe Biden rarely talks about his son Hunter, but news outlets have zoomed in on his tumultuous private life. Hunter has struggled for decades with alcohol addiction and drug abuse; he went through an acrimonious divorce from his first wife, Kathleen Buhle Biden; and he had a subsequent relationship with his deceased brother’s widow, Hallie. He was also recently sued for child support by an Arkansas woman who claims that he is the father of her child. There’s a lot to unpack in here.

“There’s addiction in every family. I was in that darkness. I was in that tunnel—it’s a never-ending tunnel.”

The first Gen Z superstar: Billie Eilish was born in December 2001, making her the first artist with a chart-topping album to be born this millennium. She’s never bought a CD. She says things like, “I’m never gonna be 27 — that’s too old.” Four years ago, she uploaded to SoundCloud a song called “Ocean Eyes,” which was meant for her dance teacher, who’d asked for a song to choreograph a routine to. But when it went viral overnight, the industry came calling. She had a billion streams on Spotify before her album had even come out. She’s actually a really fascinating person, and this profile captures her well.

“Fame is pretty cool. If I’m putting on my third-person cocky hat, the shit is fucking amazing.”

The man outsmarting the robots: AI and robots have automated a lot of jobs, but there’s one person you cannot automate away: Bobby Tuna. Of all the things, fish is the final frontier in food delivery that still requires a human touch. Bobby Tuna can tell if that fish you ordered online is fresh or mushada — a little soft. “By the time they invent a computer that can do what I can do,” he says, ”I’ll be dead.”

“To get the best out of fishmongers, they have to have a relationship with you. To trust you. Then you’re going to get the best stuff. How’s a robot supposed to be able to do that?”

The star grappling with trauma : Although pop star Ariana Grande is enjoying the most successful chapter of her career, it has also been a spectacularly brutal couple of years. In 2017, Grande performed at her sold-out show in Manchester, England, when a suicide bomber detonated, leaving 23 people dead. In 2018, her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller died of an overdose, and her brief engagement to the SNL comic Pete Davidson ended. In this profile, she opens up about heartache, grief, and growing up.

“I still don’t trust myself with the life stuff.”


The billion-dollar streetwear brand: When it first opened in 1994, Supreme sprung to life as a meet-up spot for the growing downtown New York skate community. Twenty-five years later, Supreme remains a skate brand, but it is something much more than that too. Supreme's clothing and accessories sell out instantly, and the brand is valued at $1 billion. Here’s how it’s worked its way to the very center of culture and fashion.

“I think Supreme created the world that the entire fashion industry lives in today.”


The In-N-Out burger billionaireAt 36 years old, Lynsi Snyder is the youngest woman on this year’s Forbes 400 Richest Americans list. With a net worth of $3 billion, she’s the sole owner of burger empire In-N-Out. Snyder’s past lies in stark contrast to the company’s long-standing stability — she never graduated from college, battled through drug use, and went through three divorces. Taking over the franchise in 2010 gave her a sense of purpose. “When you persevere, you end up developing more strength,” she said.

“It’s not about the money for us. Unless God sends a lightning bolt down and changes my heart miraculously, I would not ever sell.”

The Profile: The adventurer on a fatal mission & the neurologist who hacked his brain

People call Kenneth Feinberg “the master of disaster” because his career is just one very long list of tragedies. 

— The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
— The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings
— The Boston Marathon bombings
— The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster
— The Las Vegas concert massacre

What’s a life worth? That’s the question Feinberg has been forced to answer as a mediator in nearly all of America's crises. His job is to decide who receives compensation — and how much they should get — for their suffering. It’s not easy being the person America turns to in the wake of our worst catastrophes.

In this ‘Without Fail’ podcast episode, Feinberg details the complexities of the job. In the days after September 11th, for example, he made a promise to the public: “My door is open to any 9/11 survivor who wants to meet with me in private.” He’ll never forget his very first meeting. He shares the following in the podcast:

I remember it like it was yesterday. A 24-year-old woman came to see me, sobbing.

“Mr. Feinberg, my husband died in The World Trade Center. He was a fireman, and he left me with our two children. I’ve applied to the fund, and you’ve calculated that I’ll get $2.8 million, tax-free. I want it in 30 days.

I said, “Mrs. Jones, why do you need the money in 30 days?” She said, “My husband died, and he left me with our two children. Now, Mr. Feinberg, why 30 days? I have terminal cancer. I have 10 weeks to live. My husband was going to survive me and take care of our two children. Now, they’re going to be orphans. I have got to get this money while I still have my faculties. I have to set up a trust, find a guardian — we never anticipated this.” 

Imagine having 950 of these types of conversations. “You think you’re ready for anything,” he says. “And you’re not.” 

Feinberg shares many more anecdotes in the podcast, and it’s one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve heard in a while ... Makes you think: Can you really put a price on life? I had goosebumps all the way through. Check it out here. 

Here we go with this week’s profiles:

— The adventurer on a fatal mission [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The neurologist who hacked his brain
The Facebook fixer
— The developer who built the retweet button
— The kids of Akron, Ohio
— The man who became a shoe
— The handmade empire
China’s data giant

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The adventurer on a fatal mission: In the fall of 2018, the 26-year-old American missionary John Allen Chau traveled to North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean with the idea to convert one of the planet's last uncontacted tribes to Christianity. Aside from Chau, almost no outsider had ever set foot on North Sentinel. The islanders killed him, and Chau was pilloried around the world as a deluded Christian on a mission to die. Here’s the fascinating story of the young traveler driven to extremes by unshakable faith. (Outside Magazine)

“Lord, let Your Will be done. If you want me to get actually shot or even killed with an arrow, then so be it.”

The neurologist who hacked his brain: Neurologist Phil Kennedy dedicated his life to the dream of building more and better cyborgs and developing a way to fully digitize a person’s thoughts. In 2014, he decided that for his next breakthrough, he would tap into a healthy human brain. His own. He underwent surgery to implant a set of glass-and-gold-wire electrodes beneath the surface of his own brain. Why? To build a brain-computer interface that flows as smoothly as a healthy person’s speech. Here’s what happens when you gamble with your own mind. (Wired)

"We'll extract our brains and connect them to computers that will do everything for us. And the brains will live on."

The Facebook fixer: Nick Clegg is a former Liberal Democrats leader and deputy prime minister in the U.K. After failing to realign British politics, he moved to California and became Facebook's head of global affairs and communications in 2018. Has he sold out – or can he really be the missing link between government and Big Tech? (New Statesman)

“Ignore ideology and partisanship; seek progress and compromise; look for evidence- and reality-based solutions: this is Clegg’s approach, as he would have it.”

The developer who built the retweet button: Developer Chris Wetherell built Twitter’s retweet button. And he regrets it to this day. “We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon,” Wetherell recalled thinking as he watched the first Twitter mob use the tool he created. “That’s what I think we actually did.” Wetherell, a veteran tech developer, led the Twitter team that built the retweet button in 2009. He says it’s time to fix it. (BuzzFeed)

"It dawned on me that this was not some small subset of people acting aberrantly. This might be how people behave. And that scared me to death.”

The kids of Akron, Ohio: LeBron James opened the I Promise School to help at-risk students. One year later, 90% of its students have met or exceeded their growth goals in a district assessment. Could the school set a blueprint for others across the country? (Bleacher Report)

"Getting the brain out of survival mode and to a place where it can think and process. It's transformational."

The man who became a shoe: The Stan Smith shoe has sold more than 50 million pairs since it was released in 1971, although the actual figure is likely much more, making it the most popular Adidas sneaker of all time. This is a profile of Stan Smith the man & how he went from a "decent" tennis player to the most popular sneaker on the planet. (Esquire)

“I guess it is pretty weird seeing my face on a pair of sneakers.”


The handmade empire: Etsy, the e-commerce site for handmade and craftsy goods, has earned cultlike devotion from sellers and buyers alike for its “keeping commerce human” ethos and its focus on small vendors rather than big corporate conglomerates. But Etsy is enjoying a striking turnaround, thanks in part to an effort to give customers the consistent, reliable experience they’d expect from … a big corporate conglomerate. (Fortune)

“The core of Etsy is amazing. It just needs the opportunity to breathe.”

China’s data giant: Ping An built an empire around safe and staid products like life insurance. Now it's betting its future on inventive uses of big data. Facial recognition and “micro-expression” analysis are now standard features for companies using Ping An’s cloud. Should customers be fine with the fact that a company that sells health insurance can calculate their body fat percentage with a face scan? (Fortune)

“Ping An claims its A.I. can read 54 distinct ‘micro-expressions’ to determine whether loan applicants are lying.”

The Profile: The man with the $13 billion checkbook & the convenience store killer

One thing I love talking about (that no one else finds nearly as interesting) is the paradox of identity. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the Theseus Paradox, which raises the question of whether an object which has had all its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object.

I probably spend too much time thinking about this stuff, but humor me for a second. Is it your body, your mind, or your outlook that defines your identity? Which ‘you’ do you consider the real you? The person you are today? Five years ago? Five years from now?

The reason this is on my mind is because I was reading more about the complicated life of the late New York Times media columnist David Carr. When I read his articles in my college journalism classes, he was a celebrated writer whose prose we all worshipped. He was also a recovering alcoholic and drug addict who abused women. So who is the real David Carr? In his harrowing 2008 memoir, The Night of the Gun, he investigates and fact-checks the darkness of his own life. Here’s an excerpt on this very topic of identity:

When memory is called to answer, it often answers back with deception. How is it that almost every warm bar stool contains a hero, a star of his own epic, who is the sum of his amazing stories? 

If I said I was a fat thug who beat up women and sold bad coke, would you like my story? What if instead I wrote that I was a recovered addict who obtained sole custody of my twin girls, got us off welfare and raised them by myself, even though I had a little touch of cancer? Now we’re talking. 

Both are equally true, but as a member of a self-interpreting species, one that fights to keep disharmony at a remove, I’m inclined to mention my tenderhearted attentions as a single parent before I get around to the fact that I hit their mother when we were together. We tell ourselves that we lie to protect others, but the self usually comes out looking damn good in the process.

I don’t know about you, but, man, that hit me hard. Are we all just lying to ourselves to preserve the illusion that we’re the hero of our story — even if we’ve had a checkered past? Carr ends his memoir with the following: “I now inhabit a life I don’t deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end any time soon.”

Carr died after suddenly collapsing in The New York Times newsroom in 2015. His daughter Erin Lee Carr recently wrote a memoir I can’t wait to read called, “All That You Leave Behind,” about her relationship with her dad. My friend Lauren Lachs sent me this excerpted list of lessons from Erin’s book. I hope you enjoy.

More stories for you below:

The man with the $13 billion checkbook [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The apocalyptic presidential candidate
— The unstoppable Missy Elliott
The world’s last quizmaster
The convenience store killer
— America’s most popular shoe
— Batman’s favorite app
— The gamified language school

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The man with the $13 billion checkbook: From a tidy glass office in Midtown Manhattan, Darren Walker gives away $650 million a year of other people’s money, and is paid nicely to do so. When he got this job in 2013, as president of the Ford Foundation, he set his sights on tackling inequality, but things quickly got complicated. Walker has some of New York’s best connections, and how he uses his influence could affect philanthropy’s future. (The New York Times)

“Henry Ford never imagined that a black gay man would be president of this foundation, but that’s what’s great about American philanthropy, that it continues to evolve.”

The apocalyptic presidential candidate: Presidential candidate Andrew Yang tells quite the story. He talks about the rise in suicide, the rise in drug overdoses, the increase in the number of people claiming disability benefits. What he describes is a loss of meaning on a massive scale. In Yang’s America, the voting age would be 16, Supreme Court justices would have term limits, Tax Day would be a holiday, Puerto Rico would be a state, and the penny would be eliminated. And that’s just the beginning. (The New Yorker)

“The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.”

The unstoppable Missy Elliott: Hip-hop legend Missy Elliot is ready to drop long-awaited new music, but she has a different perspective this time around. It’s only now that she realizes her early innovations and creativity were ahead of their time or the influence they would have on other artists. “I was just going, going, going,” she says. In this profile, Missy talks about her childhood, her rise to fame, and what’s in store for the future. (Marie Claire)

“I was just telling somebody that everything I spoke, I’ve done.”

The world’s last quizmaster: The traditional one man band English pub quizmaster is under threat from firms that produce quizzes centrally and supply dozens or even hundreds of venues. Quizmaster Paul Partridge writes his quizzes weekly, drawing on trivia books and formulating news-based questions late in the process to be sure they’re current. But now, he’s facing serious competition from a slew of companies he says are only interested in the bottom line. (Bloomberg)

“This quiz used to be cool. We used to have questions about Evel Knievel—and drugs”


The convenience store killer: We’ll go to great lengths to avoid interacting with humans or waiting in lines. In exchange, we’re willing to give up our privacy and be taped & tracked by dozens of cameras operated by Amazon. Amazon’s new Go store does exactly that. From a technological perspective, the Go stores are a marvel—a demonstration of Amazon’s capacity to devote vast resources toward applying the state of the art in AI to an everyday problem. It begs the question — are we just participants in a much larger Amazon-sponsored experiment? (Bloomberg)

“Like so many things Amazon does, I’m sure it doesn’t look at it as a convenience store, doesn’t look at it as a bookstore, but looks at it as a data experiment.”

America’s most popular shoe: Every time I wear my Rothy’s flats, a woman usually stops me and says, “Are those…?” And before she finishes, I already know what she’ll ask. Rothy’s has been relentlessly targeting millennial women via Instagram, urging them to buy the “washable, 3D-knitted flats made from recycled plastic.” Rothy’s has rocketed out of nowhere to $140 million in revenue, mostly built on low-cost social media marketing and word of mouth. Take a look inside its unlikely rise. (Forbes)

“If you have gobs of money, you might be inclined to go out and start buying customers or making dumb decisions.”

Batman’s favorite app: Citizen is a mobile app that sends you real-time alerts about crimes & other emergency situations in your immediate surroundings. It has helped find missing people, rescue abducted children, and alert residents to building fires. But conflicted enthusiasm is common among Citizen users: I don’t know if I want to know, but I can’t not know. (Forbes)

“We were told that we were crazy, that this was reckless and possibly destructive, and we took the risk.”

The gamified language school: Language learning app Duolingo has hooked everyone from Bill Gates, Khloe Kardashian and Jack Dorsey to Syrian refugees in Turkey. “The moment I felt proudest was when I realized, Wow, the richest man in the world is using the same system as the lowest people on the economic scale,” says Duolingo’s founder. The app grabs users with gamification tricks like points, treasure chests and “streaks” for continuous use. It’s addictive in a good way. (Forbes)

“We want to get you to a level where you can get a job, even a high-paying job, using a language you learn on Duolingo.”

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