Mike: Ester, the SATs are back in the news cycle this week and it something I thought I would not have to think about ever again after high school.
Ester: I had nightmares about my SATs in high school — actual nightmares that I can recall and describe. The tests were taken so seriously I was convinced my results would be carved on my gravestone. Was your school that crazy about them?
Mike: I mean, we knew that they were important, but it did seem like half of my class didn’t really care about it. There were definitely some students who obsessed and bought all of the SAT prep books and took tutoring classes at night. I was not one of those kids, mainly due to the fact that my parents couldn’t afford to buy those books or give me those classes. Though I did go to the library. Actually, if I recall, I didn’t think that much about the SATs.
Ester: Did you feel at a disadvantage compared to the more affluent kids?
Mike: Not really? I mean, I felt confident in my ability to test, hah, which is what is important when it comes down to it. I did not study for the SATs.
Happy Friday, everyone! Here is a video of some guys in matching zip-up sweaters telling us they’ve found a way to turn water into wine. Okay, that ‘way’ involves ‘adding the ingredients necessary to make wine’ but still: JESUS STUFF.
The Miracle Machine (yep) is “an accelerated wine-making device for the home” that sets out to make wine that imitates the exact flavors of much fancier, actual wines at a fraction of the price and in a fraction of the time.
Like all modern miracles, the wine machine comes an app that monitors the fermentation process and alerts you when your wine is ready.
It does not exist yet, but the website lists the device at $499. According to the FAQ, they hope to sell the ingredients themselves for $10/month, enough to make a bottle of wine a week. <– not enough wine
When I moved to New York from Germany, I didn’t have words. I had written for prominent papers in Hamburg, but in New York my German faded quickly and English was slow to take its place. After a few months here I found myself close to aphasic. All I had now was a hasty, unhappy marriage and an apartment in Bushwick that was cheap and hot. Through the window bars I could see glimpses of a trash-filled backyard and an alley cat with kittens. During the day I could hear the termites in the backyard destroying the wooden benches that were built by the old German winemaker who owned the building at the turn of the century. I could see the neighbors in their cemented yard dancing to reggaeton. Voiceless, I listened to unfamiliar sounds. Everything around me was falling apart: my marriage, the benches, my brain, my language. I decided to take in the cat and her kittens.
As my first, desolate New York summer was thrust away by fall, the outdoor music subsided. The sound of the termites was replaced by that of the mice making their winter nests in my walls.
“Neighborhood was bad when Germans lived here,” my old Puerto Rican neighbor Mira told me one day when I was finally able to ask her whether she, too, could hear the mice in the walls and the termites in the benches. Our short conversations were guessing games. Our English was rudimentary.
The SAT went back to its old 1600-point system this week (thank youuuu) and along with that announcement came news of a partnership between The College Board and Khan Academy. Khan Academy is a non-profit with the mission of “providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere,” are teaming up to make test prep free and accessible on the web. Nona Willis-Aronowitz at NBC News reports:
[Collegeboard CEO David] Coleman took aim at the multi-billion dollar private test prep industry, saying it “drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country.” He charged the companies with “intimidat[ing] parents at all levels of income” into paying exorbitant fees for coaching and tutoring.
Companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review, as well as smaller boutique test prep businesses, can charge more than $1,000 per course. Private tutors often charge more than $15,000 a year. According to the College Board, the industry is largely built on teaching kids “tricks” and gimmicks to outsmart the test, as well as other skills and facts that even Coleman now admits have been disconnected from what kids learn in school.
Kaplan, for their part, is not threatened. READ MORE
Speaking of cartoonists at The New Yorker: Have you read Roz Chast’s cartoon about caring for her parents at the end of their lives? It is lovely, and you can read it here. (The Getty photo above is Chast with Sally Field at an event.)
From noise-canceling headphones to the popularity of silent retreats, there has never been quite so great a premium placed on silence. And not only do we value it in a general sense, we’re willing to pay for it. Silence has become the ultimate luxury.
Chloe Schama at the New Republic cites a litany of ways we’re willing to pay a premium for good ol’ peace and quiet. We text instead of call, we stake out the quiet car on Amtrak (and then rage at the people who don’t abide by the rules), we pay more for fancy automobiles that don’t make noise, we live on quiet blocks, and we soundproof conference rooms. My personal favorite: “You can buy John Cage’s 4’33’’ on iTunes.” (omg)
Why has silence become a commodity? To some extent it seems an outgrowth of a back-to-basics, purity-as-priority impulse. Food can’t get from the farm to the table fast enough; toxins must be avoided at all costs; the “disconnectionists” preach digital detox. Absence, in other forms, has become a commodity. How many products advertise their virtues by what they don’t include? BPA-free baby bottles, GMO-free tomatoes, and gluten-free oatmeal—never mind that it didn’t have gluten to begin with—are all available at your local supermarket. READ MORE
• Oatmeal Chewing Gum
• Dr. Bronner’s Magic Lengthy Pamphlet
• Ready-To-Go Sliced Grapes
• Sprouted 7 Hair Follicle Bread
• Celery Leathers
• Naturally Scented Moisturizing Buttermilk Deodorant
• Farmer Joe’s Corn Harvest Macro Lager
• Gluten-Free Joe-Joe’s “Daylight Savings Time” Cookies
• Toffee Ham Bits
• Organic Unsalted Crunchy Butter
• 3 grams of Mexican dirt weed from Jay in the stockroom
At Mental Floss, rejection letters sent to famous people before they were famous, which are always fun to read and may inspire hope.
Good morning! Is it really going to be in the 40s and sunny-ish this weekend? I really cannot wait. Let’s do some estimates.
I’m recovering from a cold and will be laying a bit low tonight, but am planning on pulling it together for a friend’s 34th birthday on Saturday evening, for which I will need to pick up something to bring with me. Otherwise, I’ll be doing a normal grocery shop, doing some editing, filing some invoices, and will hopefully enjoy some sunlight. My estimate is $130.
What are your estimates?
Photo: Dave Stokes
Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing.
Today my 1 thing is to have a chat with Meaghan O’Connell about 1 thing. Unlike most 1 things, I’ve ~already done it~.
Logan: Meaghan this is a chat in which I would like to accomplish 2 things: Tell you I don’t want to do 1 thing anymore because I’ve done all the possible things there are to do (ha), and also ask you to take over doing 1 thing. Do you have any thoughts on either of these matters y/n