In a story for Mother Jones last month, Tasneem Raja asked, “Is Coding the New Literacy?” This wasn’t a “go to college and study STEM” argument, but rather, a discussion of whether understanding code in an increasingly digital world will just be as important as understanding how to read and write. Reading and writing, Raja points out, became more important in the 19th Century as written information from newspapers to store displays began to bombard people. Literacy rates soared, fostered “through religious campaigns, the nascent public school system, and the at-home labor of many mothers.” Everyone understood that reading and writing was important, though not everyone decided to become a writer. Could it be the same for code literacy? It’s not absurd to think that we may all understand code one day but not all grow up to be programmers.
I'm usually not much of a gift guide person, but I liked Megan McArdle's gift guide for kitchen things because of how sensible it is (a $13 microplane grater is affordable and is something I'd actually would be happy to get). I also have a close friend who seemingly has everything, so my gifts to her are usually to take her out to dinner, but I once bought her a fish spatula for her birthday after remembering the one night we made dinner together where we ruined the fish using a regular spatula and it was kind of perfect. Plus, you could always get a nice oven mitt for the person who doesn't like to cook, but likes frozen pizza.
As boomers begin to age, more of them are getting together with their families to discuss the difficult question of what should happen in the event of their death. The so-called "death dinners" are hosted by people who invite close family members and friends to discuss things like living wills (70 percent of adults don't have a living will, according to the Pew Research Center), whether or not they'd like to be buried or cremated, and what kind of medical interventions they'd like ("Don't tube me," one mother says. "If I am pooping in my pants or in diapers, I’m out of here.") There are even websites dedicated to helping people plan their death dinners. It's a good idea if none of this stuff has been discussed openly in the family, and bringing everyone together gets everyone on the same page (you avoid the "but mom told me [x]" arguments).
Our nearest and dearest Choire Sicha wrote about how the Bloomberg administration changed New York in the last decade. Stay for some beautifully written descriptions of the way the city used to be, or, at the very least, to learn how Choire once earned $200 in exchange for witnessing a sex act when he was broke and in need of money.
New York City's bikeshare system, while popular, is inching towards bankruptcy and bleeding more money every day. So what the hell is going on? One problem is that it's popular with local users who get the yearlong passes with a much lower profit margin than the single-use passes intended to fund the system. The idea of visiting New York City and hopping on one of these bikes on a whim does seem like a bit of a stretch. With, "How to Make a Bikeshare Fair and Functional" Jordan Fraade at the Baffler looks at the bigger picture:
Via our pal Matt Levine, Bloomberg has an interview with Thomas Anderson, the author of a new book out called The Value of Debt. During the financial crisis, many households were overleveraged, which later resulted in a focus on de-leveraging and becoming debt-adverse (we got better at paying down our credit cards, for example, though that kind revolving debt is beginning to rise again). As you can see from his response above, Anderson argues that being too debt-averse is a mistake. He argues that it's all about balance—pay off that high-interest, non tax-deductible debt first, but also hold onto some of your money in case you need it. Do what you need to do to remain secure, essentially.
The pay-TV industry (those who cater to cable subscribers) is closely watching the television habits of a new generation who they deem as "cord nevers," meaning they didn't cut their cable cords—they never had cable in the first place, and with so many online streaming and viewing option, they'll probably won't ever feel the need to subscribe.
On Bloomberg's The Ticker, Stephen Mihm looks at the history of how minimum wages were set by looking at the laws that were put into place after the Black Death ravaged medieval England and laborers were in short supply and in high demand. King Edward III set a maximum wage to prevents serfs from asking for un-serf-like compensation, but the laws governing wages were then used to set a "living wage."
From Bloomberg, a look at the minimum wage debate via the state of Washington, which has the highest state minimum wage in the country.
Add this to the list of things people think about doing when they're down to nothing and figuring out how to make some money: Sell your hair, or breast milk, or even kidneys on the black market ("kidneys" is one of the autofill options that come up when you type "I want to sell my" into Google search). But really, don't sell your kidneys. The teenager who sold his kidney for an iPhone and iPad really regrets it.
The U.S. is facing a retirement crisis with too many Americans who will be hitting their retirement years without very much money saved up: "59 percent of households headed by people 65 and older currently have no retirement account assets, according to Federal Reserve data analyzed by the National Institute on Retirement Security," reports Bloomberg. Nearly 7.2 Americans over 65 were still working last year.