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    Digital platforms like Facebook and Google must know when they’ve sold political ads aimed at influencing elections and make that information available to the public, regulators in Washington State said on Thursday, effectively rejecting claims by the companies that the requirement was too burdensome.

    In a unanimous vote, the state’s three-member Public Disclosure Commission reaffirmed a “final rule” on political ad disclosure that requires commercial advertisers to disclose a set of details about each political ad they run. Those details include the name and address of the ad’s purchaser, the ad’s cost, and the total number of impressions that an ad received as well as demographic information about the audiences an ad reached.

    Representatives for Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lobbyist for the Internet Association, an industry group that represents Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other large tech companies, said the new ruling was “disappointing.”

    “Campaigns should be required to disclose the political nature of an advertisement,” the lobbyist, Rose Feliciano, told The Stranger.

    Campaigns are already required to make those disclosures, but Washington State law also requires commercial advertisers to provide information independently.

    In June, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson also sued Facebook and Google for violating state campaign finance laws over its disclosure of ads, following the companies’ failure to provide details on ads to The Stranger and others. The case is ongoing.

    Catching all political ads “technologically impossible”

    Google, Twitter, and Facebook have all tried to increase the transparency of their political ads amid fallout over Russia’s use of their platforms to target U.S. voters ahead of the 2016 election, in the hopes of heading off possible new federal rules. But Washington State says the companies’ efforts have so far failed to meet its standards.

    In May, Facebook released a political ads archive that lets users view ongoing and past campaigns, but the archive still does not meet the standards of Seattle and Washington, including disclosing detailed data on each political ad’s intended and actual audiences. It is also currently limited only to ads sent on or after May 7, 2018, and has so far missed an untold number of ads that should have been labeled in its database.

    The Facebook archive also does not appear to be “open for public inspection,” as mandated by Seattle and Washington State disclosure laws: It’s only available to Facebook members. Nevertheless, Facebook has continued to sell political ads in the state.

    In June, Google said it would no longer sell political ads in Washington state since it could not comply with state rules. Still, as The Stranger reported, the company has sold more than $6,000 in political ads to state candidates in recent months. In August, the company launched its own political ads archive, but it still does not meet all of the state’s requirements.

    In September, the Internet Association argued in a Washington court that “it is technologically impossible” for its members to know whether every ad that runs on their platforms is political or not.

    “Google serves tens of billions of ads every day,” Google wrote in a letter to Washington State lawmakers, “including ads by state and local candidates who use self­-service Google Ads without ever interacting with anyone at Google.”

    Technically, Google’s lawyers have also argued, the company had not actually sold any political ads in Washington State prior to June 7, when the state added language clarifying that “digital communications” could also qualify as “political advertising.” And in October, a lawyer for Facebook told the PDC that Facebook believes it’s immune from Washington State’s political ad rules. The company argued that Washington’s law is preempted by a federal rule, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which is often used by tech companies as a shield against legal liability for content on their platforms.

    The companies’ efforts to provide more details on political ads are complicated by the methods that campaigns use to obscure the actual ad buyers, including purchasing ads through shell companies and limited liability companies. Meanwhile, many political ads, like those linked to the Russian government in 2016, didn’t make specific reference to the election, voting, or to a particular candidate.

    Related:Targeted ads are ramping up on cable via your smart TV

    While television still accounts for most political ad expenditures, Facebook and Google have seen a surge in political ad purchases this year. Spending on digital ads rose more than 25 times from the last midterm elections in 2014 to almost $1.8 billion, according to estimates by Borrell Associates. Total political ad spending this year is likely to set a record, with a total of perhaps $9 billion.

    This month, Facebook said it had reaped $354 million from more than 2 million ads in 2018. Google said it earned about $74.7 million on ads that mentioned federal candidates or incumbents since the end of May 2018, but that number did not include state or other local candidates.

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    Some employees at Juul are said to be vaping mad over a report that one of the world’s largest tobacco companies could take a piece of the controversial e-cig startup.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, Altria Group–parent company of Marlboro cigarettes–is in talks with Juul to take a significant minority stake in a deal that could value the startup at around $30 billion. The reported talks come at a time when Juul is facing backlash over teen vaping, a federal restriction on retail sales of flavored e-cigs, and the threat of additional regulations on menthol cigarettes. Altria, meanwhile, is up against a shrinking U.S. market overall for conventional cigarettes, a problem exacerbated in no small part by vaping.

    So perhaps these two companies can offer something to each other, or so the thinking presumably goes. However, some people who work at Juul apparently don’t see it that way. Axios says it obtained Slack messages from employees who see the company’s mission–it was founded as a product to reduce conventional smoking–as diametrically opposed to that of Altria’s. “Deal with the devil” is how one employee reportedly put it.

    Of course, Slack is a common place these days for employees to hash out disagreements and internal disputes, so it’s hard to say if the complaints are just a bit of workplace grumbling or if they signal the makings of a bona fide backlash.

    I reached out to Juul for comment and will update if I hear back.

    Looking for more details on how Juul became the most embattled startup of the year? Our Ainsley Harris wrote about the company for Fast Company’s latest issue. Find it here.

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    Apple has a number of options for fixing a widely reported “cyber flashing” problem that is enabled by the AirDrop feature on the iPhone.

    Airdrop’s preview notification, with preview image. [Source: Apple]
    To cite Urban Dictionary’s definition, cyber flashing is the digital equivalent of old-fashioned trenchcoat-style flashing. It happens when some rando detects another iPhone user within 30 feet who has set their AirDrop settings to “Everyone,” then sends them a lewd picture. A notification pops up on the receiver’s phone, and they can accept or reject it. The problem is that they also see a preview image that’s big enough to get the point across of a lewd picture or a threatening statement.

    Cyber flashing has become a thing on major metro subway systems. Media reports of the problem began showing up in 2015, but we’ve heard about cases of AirDrop abuse for years. The feature became available on the iPhone in 2011. New York City is now proposing a law that would severely punish people sending lewd pictures to strangers, the New York Timesreported today. Here’s my favorite part:

    “In the old days, you had to have a long trench coat and good running shoes,” said Councilman Joseph Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island who is co-sponsoring the anti-flashing bill. “Technology has made it significantly easier to be a creep.”

    Apple could, if it wanted to, easily fix this problem. Here’s how:

    iPhone users can only get cyber flashed by a stranger if they have actively switched their AirDrop settings from “Contacts Only” to “Everyone.” (To check and/or change your Settings you can either go to General > AirDrop or simply look in Control Center and press down on the networking section with bluetooth and cellular to view or change AirDrop settings.)

    The AirDrop settings menu in Danger Mode. [Source: Apple]
    From Apple’s perspective, the easiest fix is to just remove the preview image from AirDrop notifications for users being asked to receive content from anyone not in their contacts list.

    Or it could just remove the “Everyone” setting completely. The setting seems wildly inconsistent with Apple’s almost-obsessive emphasis on privacy. I asked Apple why people switch their setting to “Everyone” but got no reply. I suspect the setting was meant for people who want to be able to quickly send a media file or resume to someone they meet at a party or networking event. (I don’t know anyone who’s actually done that, but who knows.) With the “Everyone” setting removed, the receiver would have to add the sender to their contacts before anything was exchanged.

    At the very least, Apple could put a warning in front of the user who switches AirDrop into “Everyone” mode. Something like: “In this mode someone you don’t know in your general vicinity might send you pictures of their genitals.” (Well, Apple could work on the wording.)

    Android also has an ad-hoc file-sharing feature, called Android Beam. But it contains a built-in security feature: In order for it to work, the two Android phones have to be placed back to back, so that pretty much rules out receiving unwanted preview images from strangers. (The NFC radios in the two phones also have to be turned on.) Indeed, that might be another possible fix for AirDrop on the iPhone–require that the receiving and sending devices be much closer together. If not physically touching, then maybe at least within a distance of much shorter than 30 feet when in “Everyone” mode.

    If Apple would make the above changes, and I suspect they will do at least one of them, the city of New York might not need a cyber-flashing law. For now, at least, lawmakers may be forced to step in.

    Apple didn’t immediately respond to a question about whether it’s considering any fixes to this issue.

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    The holiday season is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can be fun, exciting, and jammed-packed with celebration. On the other hand, it can be exhausting, stressful, and leave you feeling like you need a long vacation to recover from all the “fun” and festivities.

    But there is a way to enjoy the holidays and wake up happy by January 1st. You can even start the new year feeling fulfilled and rejuvenated, but you need to incorporate habits that can boost your stress tolerance and resilience. Yes, this means staying away from practices that deplete it.

    Here are the top 8 mistakes that I see people make again and again when it comes to dealing with holiday stress.

    1) Using alcohol to help fall asleep

    Many people drink a glass of wine (or two) to unwind after a stressful day. Sure, it can help them feel sleepier and more relaxed, but alcohol actually decreases REM sleep. The effect is also dose-dependent. The more you drink and the closer it is to bedtime, the more it will disrupt your normal sleeping patterns.

    Try to avoid consuming alcohol too close to your bedtime, and if you do have a drink, stick to one unit a day.

    2) Drinking too much caffeine

    Caffeine is a brain stimulant and different people get rid of it at different rates. Caffeine is broken down in the liver by a specific enzyme called p450 1A2 (CYP1A2), and it works more efficiently in some people than it does in others.

    Some people, myself included, are slow metabolizers while others are rapid metabolizers. Slow metabolizers keep caffeine longer in the brain and body, so for them, drinking two cups of coffee in the morning can affect deep phase four sleep that night.

    Using caffeine to fight sleep deprivation can also cause you to feel more “on edge,” irritable, and anxious under stress. So think about that before you pour yourself your third cup of coffee for the day.

    3) Over-scheduling yourself due to FOMO

    I get it. Holiday seasons mean more engagements and parties, and you don’t want to miss out on them. But when you overcommit, that “fun” is going to backfire on you. When you don’t give yourself enough time to rest, life starts to feel overwhelming. Research shows that this feeling can lead to lower mood and life satisfaction scores.

    Before you over-schedule, make sure you leave some “blank space” time in your diary each week for downtime and relaxation.

    4) Giving into carb binges

    The holidays are full of food that tastes good–like that cookie jar. Unfortunately, the combination of high sugar and saturated fat creates a food-craving loop that can lead to more cravings, which leads to energy crashes, higher stress cortisol, and insulin levels.

    5) Making everyone else’s emergencies your emergencies

    The holiday season is filled with fun, but suddenly everyone around you has urgent requests that you need to complete ASAP. But during the holiday seasons–when stress levels are high–it’s extremely important to set boundaries and be honest with others about what you actually can do.

    After all, when say yes, you want to be able to enjoy it–not feel burned out and frazzled. This does mean that you have to say no to things and disappoint some people. But in the long run, you’re doing them a service by not saying yes when you can’t give 100%.

    6) Playing sleep catch-up on the weekend

    It’s tempting to skimp on sleep all week and tell yourself that you’ll “catch up” on the weekends. But this practice isn’t enough to repay the sleep debt. In fact, disrupting your normal bedtime and wake-up time significantly can lead to more issues and continue a vicious sleep-deprivation cycle.

    Poor sleep can actually change the way your brain responds to your environment, making you see the world in a more negative, threatening way. It can also hinder your ability to ignore distractions and focus.

    7) Stopping your exercise routine because you are too busy

    Exercise is a great stress-buster. Not only does it aid your sleep, but it can also help you manage your holiday indulgences. To reap the benefits, you need to treat it like it’s your most important meeting. So find three (or more) empty slots in your calendar, and schedule that workout. Make sure that you pick a form of exercise that you enjoy and can stick to.

    8) Dealing with mental overwhelm by browsing social media

    Social media is an easy mental distraction–you can get an instant brain reward from posting pics or scrolling through images on Instagram.

    But this kind of coping mechanism can lead to depression or poorer mental health. Studies show that people who check Facebook excessively on their smartphones have lower brain volumes in the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s reward center.

    The holiday seasons can be a time of stress–but paying attention to your coping mechanism can go a long way. Do yourself a favor and stay away from these practices–your mind will thank you when you get to the New Year.

    Dr. Dani Gordon is a double board-certified medical doctor and an expert in stress resilience & burnout prevention.  She is the CEO of

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    “Read my lips: No new taxes!”

    Those six words received a thunderous applause at the 1988 Republican National Convention when they were spoken by George H. W. Bush, who passed away on Friday at the age of 94. Bush was accepting the nomination as the Republican candidate for president, and the promise of no new taxes became an easy-to-digest rallying cry for his campaign, drawing a stark contrast between Bush and his Democratic rival Michael Dukakis.

    Thirty years later—in our current age of nonstop sound bites, tweets, and three-hour news cycles—it’s hard to imagine a presidential candidate being propelled to victory by a single viral moment, but Bush’s famous speech gave him the momentum and message to do just that, or so goes the story as told by the political talking heads of the era.

    In hindsight, the origin of the phrase can be seen as a harbinger of a potent and persuasive conservative media environment that would soon be unleashed upon the world. According to Time magazine, one of the key architects of Bush’s messaging was none other than Roger Ailes, who worked on the candidate’s campaign and would go on to lead Fox News only a few years later.

    Amazingly, the major points of Bush’s convention speech all happen within a span of 53 seconds. You can watch the speech above, courtesy of HLN’s YouTube page.


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    As many as 500 million guests may have had their personal information disclosed by a data breach in Marriott’s Starwood guest reservation database. While some guests “only” had their names and addresses accessed, around 327 million guests had some combination of the following information compromised: name, mailing address, phone number, credit card information, email address, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and passport number.

    That last one might give you pause. Passport numbers are especially sensitive, and you may now be wondering if yours is being passed around on the dark web, waiting to become the alias of some highly trained Russian assassin.

    We reached out to the U.S. State Department for answers. While the department says it’s aware that some individuals’ passport numbers may have been disclosed in the Marriott/Starwood breach, it is urging consumers not to panic. For one thing, none of the State Department’s records or IT systems connect directly to Marriott’s records or systems, so hackers didn’t stumble on a backdoor to the State Department’s computers.

    Also, while it’s not great that passport numbers were disclosed, according to a State Department official, passport numbers aren’t all that powerful on their own: No one can travel internationally using only a U.S. passport number. Travelers must present an original, physical version of a U.S. passport book or U.S. passport card upon entering a foreign country and when returning to the United States from a foreign country. Plus, no one can access the Department’s records or obtain copies of a U.S. citizen’s records by using a passport number alone.

    The State Department official also stressed that U.S. passports are a lot bigger than just their number. They are, in fact, “highly secure documents with numerous security features designed to prevent successful counterfeiting.”

    Of course, none of this means that the Marriott data breach is not hugely concerning, and there are steps you can take right now to protect yourself. We wrote earlier about how placing a credit freeze with the three major credit bureaus can prevent ID theft. Also, if you suspect your passport number has been comprised, consider reporting it as lost or stolen to get a new number.

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    The creative team behind the viral political ad for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has unveiled its next major advertising project–and this time it’s aimed at a global audience. On Friday, Means of Production posted a two-minute ad for Progressive International, an organization launched this week by The Sanders Institute and Europe’s DiEM25, groups founded by Jane O’Meara Sanders (wife of Senator Bernie Sanders) and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, respectively.

    The spot uses powerful language over visuals of a world seemingly crumbling around us. “Nothing less than the future of humanity is at stake,” says the voiceover, over an electro-doom, John Carpenter-style soundtrack. After going down the depressing laundry list of economic inequality, rising authoritarianism, climate crisis, war, racism, and fascism, among others, it shifts to the new organization’s purpose.

    “The time has come to form our own common front in the fight for global peace and prosperity. This movement will bring people together across the global left to think about the world we want to live in and how we make it a reality. A grassroots movement mobilizing working people all around the world, behind a shared vision of democracy, sustainability, and solidarity. We will no longer settle for reformism. We will reach out to communities in every corner of the world, and build shared power and solidarity. In every country, there are people who are fighting for progress. And we are so much stronger together. It is time for progressives of the world to unite. Let us begin today, building a better tomorrow.”

    Read more about Means of Production here.

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    Multibillion-dollar IPOs are the stuff of legend in Silicon Valley, but more and more startups are opting to stay private for years. And because those companies are private, stock options, the best weapon in the battle to attract and retain high-performing employees, are no longer available to them.

    But a new trend is taking root in the tech economy: Pre-IPO companies are allowing employees to sell their equity stakes on private-company marketplaces, lightly regulated exchanges that bring buyers and sellers together.

    “Companies are staying private longer, but, like public companies, they want to use equity as a tool to retain employees,” says David F. Larcker, a professor of accounting at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

    And while these awards offer obvious benefits to both companies and employees, they also come with transparency risks and some longer-term questions about the health of the U.S. public market.

    Early Days

    Despite the outsize attention paid to companies that perform successful public offerings, the time it takes the average company to go public has lengthened dramatically. In the period between 1996 and 2000, the average age of a company completing an initial public offering was six years. But in the decade following the financial crisis of 2008, the average company has waited 10 years to go public, a time lag that has fueled the move to pre-IPO equity awards, Larcker says.

    Related:For women at startups, the equity gap is worse than the pay gap

    Ten years is a long time to wait for a reward, so rather than risk having employees depart for more lucrative pastures, companies are awarding equity stakes. It’s still early days for this trend; in 2017 the four most important private-company marketplaces completed somewhat more than $4 billion in transactions, according to research by Larcker and two colleagues, Brian Tayan, a researcher at the business school, and Edward Watts, a PhD student in accounting at the business school.

    By way of comparison, the value of stocks traded on the 201-year-old New York Stock Exchange averaged more than $32 billion per day in October of last year.

    “We’re just at the front end of this trend, and it’s likely to grow,” Watts says.

    Risk and Reward

    For employees, there are obvious benefits to equity awards. They “allow employees to take a certain amount of risk off the table,” Tayan says. Although IPO money is attractive, there’s never a guarantee that a young company will go public or that its shares will rise above the price at which they’ve been awarded, he says. Selling not only puts money in employees’ bank accounts well before an IPO, it allows them to diversify their holdings and reduce the overall risk to their personal wealth.

    However, the equity awards come at a price.

    Securities sold through private-company marketplaces are not registered with the SEC and are not required to comply with its disclosure practices. From the investor’s point of view, the lack of transparency implies a level of risk that might not exist in a public market. As a result, employees are forced to sell their shares at a substantial discount to the price they might sell at after an IPO. The exchanges also charge a fee of about 5% per transaction, substantially more than the fee buyers and sellers pay on a traditional exchange.

    From the issuing company’s point of view, shares are an important mechanism to retain and recruit high-performing employees, particularly in a hot labor market, says Tayan. There may be a downside, though. “Once employees have taken money off the table, there could be an adverse effect on motivation,” says Larcker. “It’s a delicate balance.”

    Several Trends to Watch

    While equity awards aren’t new, these private-company marketplaces are a fairly recent phenomenon. “The pre-IPO marketplace has traditionally been dominated by networks of venture capital firms, private placement agents, brokers, and banks,” the researchers note. “These markets have historically been fragmented and opaque, severely limiting access and transparency for potential investors.”

    Related: What if we killed the job interview?

    The volume of transactions completed by Nasdaq Private Market and SharesPost, two of the largest private-company markets, grew by 300% and 200% respectively in 2017, Watts says. Although these private markets are a good deal less transparent than exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange, they offer more information to investors interested in buying on a private exchange than was available in the past, he argues.

    But beyond the rise of private-company marketplaces is a larger issue: Why are companies less eager to go–or stay–public than in the past? In 1996 there were 7,322 domestic companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges, while in 2017 there were only 3,671, wrote Jason Thomas, research director of The Carlyle Group, in a Wall Street Journal commentary last year.

    Why that’s occurring isn’t altogether clear, Larcker says. But the availability of financing via private equity and sovereign funds allows companies to raise capital while staying private. “If you don’t need access to the public markets, why go public?” he says. The costs of complying with the regulations required of public companies are burdensome, both in terms of the financial overhead and the demands on management’s time and attention, many executives complain. Some major companies, including Hilton Worldwide Holdings and H.J. Heinz, have even bought out their shareholders and gone private.

    Indeed, as more companies offer private stocks, it will be important to study the reasons and consequences of their popularity. Why are companies staying private? Will these new marketplaces exacerbate this trend? And what impact does this have on investor returns and distribution of wealth between private company investors and public company investors?

    This article was originally published on Stanford Business and is republished here with permission. The findings of the Stanford Graduat School of Business researchers are summarized in a paper published by the Stanford Closer Look Series: “Cashing It In: Private-Company Exchanges and Employee Stock Sales Prior to IPO.”

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    The North American Aerospace Defense Command is about to embark on its most important mission—tracking Santa Claus on his flight around the world. On Saturday, NORAD launched its annual Santa Tracker with a revamped website, social media channels, “Santa Cam” streaming video, and a call center that will be operating around the clock on Christmas Eve.

    “In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight,” said General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, noting that they are not holding back on the technology: “The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to protect Canada and the United States.”

    Now in its 63rd iteration, NORAD’s Santa tracking began in 1955—not as part of a government elf-stalking initiative, but when a local advertisement urged children to call Santa direct. One little child misdialed the number, and instead of reaching Santa, he reached the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor to NORAD.

    Keeping in the Christmas spirit, the crew commander ran with it and the Santa Tracker was born. The tradition carried over to NORAD, which is now celebrating its 60th anniversary of the festive fun. This year, more than 1,400 volunteers are expected to join NORAD on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to help track Santa’s journey while monitoring the skies for jolly old elf invasions.

    In addition to the NORAD Tracks Santa website and mobile apps (iOS and Android), users can also call or text 1-877-HiNORAD for Santa’s current location beginning on December 24.

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    A major highlight of this week’s Saturday Night Live was the debut of a hilarious new character–who inadvertently pointed out a glaring flaw in the rest of the episode.

    Meet Jules, a foppish dandy who comes from wealth and “sees things . . . a little differently.”

    With his carefully tousled hair and jaunty kerchief, Jules is a pitch-perfect parody of a certain kind of annoying, faux-enlightened rich kid. He means well (maybe?), but he’s so proud of his unearned, uninformed point of view that it ultimately doesn’t matter. Weekend Update hosts/co-head writers Colin Jost and Michael Che welcome Jules (Beck Bennett) to talk about–of all things–the economy. All he can offer on this topic, though, are smug, self-congratulatory platitudes that don’t quite add up.

    When pressed to comment on GM announcing 15,000 layoffs last week, Jules talks out of his ass thusly: “So, I don’t love taking, like, cars places? Because they’re just so, like, 1984 the book to me. They’re like these Orwellian machines straight out of . . .  George Orwell, if that makes sense? So instead of driving a car, I like, like, laying down on a longboard and using my arms the way a dolphin uses his fins. Sure, it takes longer, and I’ve been hit by a couple cars, but the thing about getting hit by a car is that, for just a moment, I get to fly.”

    It’s a great commentary on people who are as steeped in classism as fish in water, but don’t quite realize that water exists.

    Somehow, Saturday Night Live’s writers didn’t realize the rest of this episode effectively exemplifies the same attitude.

    Remember back in 2016 when the show that had welcomed candidate Donald Trump as host the previous year seemed overly confident Trump would lose in the general election? Well, that same show now seems pretty sure that the Mueller investigation is about to make all the bad things go away, so everything can turn back to normal like Cinderella’s pumpkin-coach.

    This week’s episode was bookended by a sketch up top in which a lonely Trump at the end of his tether can’t even get his old pal Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller) to help him find a way out of sure ruin, and a closing number from the women of SNL, who sing “Mueller, All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

    “I just want my life back,” Cecily Strong sings at one point, and on the surface it’s a relatable lyric. Until you consider for whom it’s relatable. This is a sentiment shared by comedy writers and the average SNL viewer and those of us (the author of this post sadly included) who were way more politically oblivious than they might have thought, pre-2016.

    Perhaps it was appropriate in those chaotic first months after the election merely to pine for the old way of life that was suddenly gone, but that mourning step should ideally have been followed by some self-reflection. Why were so many people so deeply upset with the old “normal” that this could have possibly happened? Sure, Team Trump did not fight fair, Russia and WikiLeaks had some impact, the electoral college is a wildly outdated institution, and that Comey letter may have sealed our fate, but the mere closeness of the election is undeniable proof that the old normal wasn’t working for a lot of people regardless of their political affiliation.

    By alternately projecting a superior confidence that Trump is finished (as though he hasn’t regularly eluded the albatross of consequences at every turn for years now), painting the Mueller Report as some kind of epic reset button, and whitewashing President George H.W. Bush’s complicated legacy in between, SNL seems just as out of touch with socioeconomic reality as Jules is.

    If the introduction of Jules was meant as a subversive commentary on the show’s own politics, it would be a triumph of self-aware meta-housekeeping.

    Unfortunately, the writers see things a little differently.

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    There’s no shortage of advice on how to tackle the tricky business of salary and fee negotiations. What to say, and more importantly, what not to say during these conversations can make or break your chances to get the number you want. But how exactly do you calculate your worth?

    The good news for jobseekers is that private employers in states and cities across the U.S. are banned from asking candidates about their salary history in order to set their pay for a new job.  Candidates are free to come up with a fair number on their own that doesn’t tie them to their previous wages. But this doesn’t apply to freelancers and business owners.

    The first step is to recognize that this exercise is no different than what businesses have to do in order to remain viable. “All companies take their time when calculating their value in the market,” says Soulaima Gourani, a lecturer, corporate consultant, and author. “They know how much they are worth,” she says and that information helps them survive under unsettled conditions of the slow economic recovery, as well as if they have to apply for a loan or sell the company.” Similarly, Gourani thinks that we should simply ask ourselves what our worth is in terms of yearly salary, hourly wage, or client fees.

    One way to accomplish this is to look over your own work history. John Crossman, CEO of the real estate firm Crossman & Company, says it is easy to overestimate yourself if you’ve had a number of years under your belt. “I simply reviewed what I had consistently made working as a broker for several years and averaged it,” he explains, “I felt like it gave me a healthy baseline.”

    For jobseekers

    Another good place for jobseekers to start is to do market research. Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, says, “I researched the salary for my most recent role by looking on and PayScale to see if they had any salary data for roles similar to my title.” Augustine says that she uses these sites to customize a pay range based on her years of experience, education level, and employer size.

    Before she recently got promoted, Jill Gugino Pante, director of the Career Services Center at the University of Delaware, used LinkedIn’s growing salary survey, as well as NACE, which is an industry-specific publication. “Using general sites can help,” Pante asserts, “but also identifying any industry-specific sites that report salary data can be key.” Recent grads with little to no full-time career experience may want to tap the Career Services Center at their alma mater. “Most universities and colleges report salary data on major and degree,” Pante says.

    However, in Augustine’s case, she was interviewing for an unconventional position and struggled to uncover enough intel online to aid her negotiation. So she turned to her network. “I am fortunate to have cultivated many great relationships with others who work in a similar capacity for other companies and in similar industries,” Augustine says. “These conversations were crucial in helping me develop a salary range for my new role so that I could confidently prepare with insider’s knowledge before walking into the interview room.”

    Pante says she employed a similar strategy by asking previous managers and coworkers to share their salary history. “I took into account when they started and how often they moved positions and organizations,” she adds.

    Then Pante looked at her job description and identified how much time she would spend on tasks inside and outside her regular responsibilities. “This helped me figure out the impact I was making on the organization above and beyond what I was hired to do,” she says. Finally, Pante looked at her organization’s HR website for the salary ranges of the position she wanted to be in.

    For freelancers

    While it’s all pretty straightforward for jobseekers, it can be more challenging for freelancers because of all the factors they have to weigh in order to come up with a fee for their work. This means that many of them undercharge, according to the Freelancers Union.

    Some do it because they believe their fees should match what they made per hour at their 9-to-5 job, and/or they don’t have the confidence to price what they’re worth. Others underestimate how long a project will take. For most, the conversation around value is just too awkward, so they’ll take what they can get without negotiating.

    Alison Grasso, a freelance film and video editor, says that commercial editing rates are by the day and you’d be booked for a determined period of time. “I typically do a project rate and just make sure any important or necessary deadlines are clearly indicated and that I am able to meet them,” she says.

    However, as her freelance work is a side hustle to her full-time staff position in commercial editorial, she’s able to tap into industry intel, which gives her an idea of what things cost on a large scale, and what brands often pay for the work that she does in the context of a commercial production. “In that way,” she explains, “I have a somewhat concrete notion of what my time is worth based on what people regularly pay for it.” If she’s working with a smaller client, Grasso realizes that their budget may not be as large and she adjusts accordingly.

    As for getting over the hump of awkwardness during fee negotiation, Grasso says that she presents links to relevant work to potential clients so they can see exactly what she can do, and also what she intends to do for them.

    For business owners

    Pricing services is a next-level discussion, according to Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer and founder of Talent Think Innovations. And one that requires some serious prep. “In the beginning, my learning curve was really trial by fire,” she recalls. People were asking for her services before she had a chance to research and set pricing models for them. This led to many instances of misalignment between her offerings and what she was charging.

    This is when Truitt tapped her network. “I started to share my frustrations with my entrepreneurial coworkers and some mentors who had been in business longer than I had.” These inner-circle conversations yielded advice about what she needed to consider to set prices.

    Truitt also looked up her competitors’ baseline pricing and looked at blogs or forums that gave her the considerations she needed to adjust her strategy. “Other times, I was completely blind and had to devise my own criteria based on what I knew so far,” she admits.

    Although she doesn’t make it a habit, Truitt has learned that there is a trick to justifying fees. “There are industries and certain types of companies that will gravitate towards you when you have demonstrated that you possess a strong body of knowledge, skills, and experience alongside the proposed services,” she explains. Clients in the education, healthcare, and any government sectors value seeing her resume alongside a scope of work as a way of justifying her fee. “That said, it is very rare that I get this request from potential clients,” Truitt points out.

    For anyone trying to calculate their worth in dollars, Gourani suggests above all to align the core of who we are with the life skills we’ve acquired. “If we stay true to our values and remain immune to other people’s opinions of us, we can price ourselves more efficiently,” she says. “Before you can negotiate your worth, you need to focus on the best you have to offer and let that shine through.”

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    Few people enjoy being interrupted during group discussions, and for good reason. Beyond feeling frustrating or demoralizing, the experience of colleagues chronically cutting you off in meetings may damage your career advancement, according to leadership trainer Tania Luna.

    “We associate participation with power,” says Luna, a partner at LifeLabs Learning, whose team facilitates development workshops on topics like bias reduction and effective management for companies such as Warby Parker, Lyft, Sony Music, and Salesforce. She notes a “vicious cycle” where those who feel disproportionately interrupted in meetings participate less, making it harder to be seen for the unique value you bring. Meanwhile, those who speak up (and perhaps also interrupt) may bolster their visibility and gain access to other career-advancing conversations, projects, and promotions.

    Here are a few approaches Luna recommends putting into play before, during, and after meetings if regular interruptions are getting you down.


    Know the Organizational Norms
    Just like you might look for insight into a company’s overall culture, assess the cultural norms around meeting interactions. As you note rules, etiquette, or patterns in participants’ communication styles, ask yourself:

    • How–and how often–do meeting participants interrupt one another?
    • What types of interruptions are occurring? Do they appear related to power dynamics (e.g., managers tend to interrupt their direct reports)? How frequently is technology a factor (e.g., people dialing in remotely are inadvertently speaking over each other)?
    • Are there institutional practices in place to mitigate interruptions (e.g., conference tables are stocked with “parking lot” Post-its for participants to jot down comments they think of while someone is talking, thereby encouraging them to “park” the thought instead of interjecting)?

    Once you understand the cultural norms, it’ll be easier to determine how to navigate.

    Prep a few go-to phrases
    Jot down a couple of lines to use right after you’ve been interrupted. Planning ahead is a great way to hedge against the natural human tendency to panic and react ineffectively in the moment, says Luna, who has studied psycholinguistics. Noting that humans have a desire for completion and may be more likely to empathize with phrasing that aligns with that, she suggests language like, “Before we move on, I’d love to wrap up my thought.” Ultimately, though, Luna encourages tailoring your wording to whatever feels most natural and appropriate for your environment. Saying something as blunt as, “I wasn’t finished,” for example, might be effective in a culture that preaches directness, while in other contexts, assertions may not be a productive way to re-enter the conversation.

    During a meeting

    Chime in early
    As a general rule, the sooner you can get your voice heard in a meeting, the better, says Luna. Research cites roughly equal conversational turn-taking as one of the best predictors of high-performing teams, and the benefits of claiming your talking space early on in a meeting can help reduce the participation barrier throughout the discussion. In his book The Checklist Manifesto, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the impact of this within surgical teams. When all members of a team each voiced their names to each other before surgery, Gawande not only noted a positive impact on team members’ willingness to speak up during the procedure; he also observed a 35% decrease in the average number of surgical complications and deaths. He attributes the dip in part to an “activation phenomenon.” When team members participate early on, they feel an increased responsibility and comfort speaking up and calling out problems later.

    Presume Positive Intent 
    There’s often an assumption that interrupters act with a certain arrogance and intentionality, says Luna. In addition to recognizing that people’s personalities and learned experiences vary, she recommends shaking any negative stigma you’re holding against those who interrupt. Remind yourself that people who repeatedly cut you off may not realize how you’re perceiving them (and that many would be glad to hear as much; at least half of the participants in Luna’s unconscious bias workshops, for example, have reported that they want to be more sensitive to colleagues). Even in the rare instance that the interrupter is acting consciously or maliciously, assuming otherwise can help you react with more confidence and less emotionality. In that sense, presuming positive intent can be a powerful tool to help you re-enter the conversation while helping the interrupter recognize his or her unconscious behaviors.

    Resist the Urge to Shut Down
    In that moment when you’ve been cut off, it’s completely natural to want to pull back and make yourself smaller, says Luna. But if you still have something substantive to add, avoid giving up or shutting down. Avoid crossing your arms, withdrawing, checking your phone, or, worse yet, getting  up and leaving. Instead, look for a thoughtful window to get back into the conversation. Experiment with asserting yourself with verbal and nonverbal cues (e.g., make a signal with your hand, clear your throat, lean in, and increase your volume slightly).


    Approach the interrupter
    If you’re comfortable giving direct, one-on-one feedback to a colleague who left you feeling unable to complete your thoughts in a specific meeting, do it. During a meeting break (or no more than 24 hours post-meeting), Luna suggests asking the person, “Would you be open to hearing some quick feedback on how that meeting went?” She recommends keeping the tone positive as you express that you weren’t able to contribute to the meeting the way you wanted. Try using clear, observational language like “I noticed …” or “I felt like I didn’t get a chance to…” If you feel unsafe or at risk of coming off accusatory, try framing your feedback as a question. For example, “I’ve been noticing I start talking and get cut off. Do you think it’s something I’m doing?” Making the interaction less about calling out someone’s behavior and more about how he or she can help you be heard can go a long way.

    Create coalitions to regain the floor 
    If you feel you might benefit from an ally calling out instances when you’re cut off in order to help you regain the floor, set up an arrangement with a trusted colleague who’s willing to jump in as appropriate. Suggest that he or she experiment with inviting you back into the conversation with completion language like, “I think [your name] wasn’t finished yet. Did you want to finish your thought?”

    Rethink the stigma
    While respecting other’s talking space is important, Luna discourages swearing off interruptions altogether. They can be a natural part of how people communicate, and if members of a group are overly concerned with not interrupting one another, they may risk losing the benefits of the creativity and positive energy that can come with people building off of one another’s thoughts. The impact of being interrupted tends to be most negative when it prevents you from finishing a thought, says Luna. She recommends tracking how interruptions impact completion (i.e., does the speaker bounce back from a given interruption and get a chance to finish his or her thought before the end of the conversation?). Instead of enforcing a culture of “let’s not interrupt,” she advocates for one of “let’s let each other finish.” “Give people the space back,” she says. “That’s a healthier, more blameless conversation, and more practical and productive on the whole.”

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    Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, and with big-ticket purchases out of the way, now comes the much longer list of gifts for coworkers and acquaintances. You know the type: those special pals that warrant a little more than an e-card, but for whom you don’t have the budget to lavish with extravagant gifts. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of thoughtful, well-designed stocking stuffers and Secret Santa gifts that won’t get tossed with the last outdated gadget, are actually useful, and will register as more than a gesture. Here are our picks for 20 delightful, safe-for-work holiday gifts under $20.

    Best of all? You can avoid the crowds and find all of these online.

    Paper vase in Gradient by Octaevo

    [Photo: Poketo]

    $16 at Poketo
    Laminated and hand-sewn in Barcelona, this ombre-hued vase is made from waterproof paper and easily flattens when not in use–it’s a nice punch of color for the office, and easily stowed away. Just insert a reused bottle and flowers for an instant burst of joy.

    Architectural postcard set by Alia Penner

    [Photo: Commune Design]

    $20 at Commune Design
    Featuring eight iconic architecture sites, from Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 residential complex in Montreal to the historic Eero Saarinen-designed TWA Terminal at JFK, these colorful postcards by artist Alia Penner are worthy of keeping and framing. The set comes with eight.

    G3 vessels by Shinya Yoshida

    [Photo: Good Thing]

    $12-16 each at Good Thing
    The perfect catch-all for tchotchkes of any sort, these silicone vessels come in a pleasing range of on-trend colors and are food, dishwasher, microwave, and even oven safe, making them useful for practically any purpose.

    Casa Bosques chocolate bar

    [Photo: Forage Modern Workshop]

    $11 at Forage Modern Workshop
    Casa Bosques is easily the best independent bookstore in Mexico City, with an ace selection of art and design books and magazines–and their distinctive chocolate bars are arguably just as good, with unique, small-batch flavors often made in collaboration with creatives from around the world. A bonus? No gift wrap needed–you’ll want to show off the minimalist packaging.

    Confetti cannon

    [Photo: Fredericks and Mae]

    $8 at Fredericks and Mae
    Bless this mess, as the makers of this confetti cannon attest: Here’s a blissfully non-denominational gift to lighten the mood and bring some festive cheer to even the Grinchiest of friends. Twist and turn for a good time.

    Color Block tear-off memo notepad

    [Photo: Rifle Paper Co.]

    $12 at Rifle Paper Co.
    Organization never looked so good. And thanks to Rifle Paper Co.’s prismatic, pastel-hued take on Post-its, it can also be blissfully non-stress-inducing. This stack of 65 sheets are ideal for mapping out the week, with each day labeled in gold foil.

    Clandestine notebook set

    [Photo: Field Notes]

    $12.95 at Field Notes
    If there’s one thing that 2018 taught us, it’s that no data is safe or sacred–a good case for putting the important stuff in analog, the old-fashioned way, with paper and pen. This limited-edition set from Field Notes comes with three pocket-size notebooks in a stealth “Urban Gray. Year-long subscriptions ($97/year) come with a fun cipher wheel for encoding your most precious secrets.

    Binchotan charcoal water purifying sticks by Morihata

    [Photo: Morihata]

    $18 at Ace Hotel
    Even if you know someone who does deserve a pile of coal, the gag gift is never worth the spend. These all-natural, charcoal water purifying sticks have been used in Japan since the Edo period, and the wellness hound and rotten friend alike would be glad to receive them. Stick one piece in a bottle or carafe for clean, toxin-free water, and say goodbye to plastic forever.

    Gather vases by Sam Anderson

    [Photo: Good Thing]

    From $19.50 each at Good Thing
    Like a fancy wine glass, each of these sweet little vase variations–there are five different shapes in all–are designed with different types of flower varietals in mind. They come in clear and frosted, and the smaller three are a steal, at just under $20 a pop.

    Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers by Imperfect Publishing

    [Photo: The Primary Essentials]

    $16 at The Primary Essentials
    Imperfection is a comforting virtue to uphold in these stressful times–and the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi is a great salve to modern life. For the uninitiated, an update on this 1994 text by Leonard Koren is a great introductory read.

    Cities coaster set

    [Photo: Rifle Paper Co.]

    $14 at Rifle Paper Co.
    Illustrator Anna Bond’s signature whimsy makes this boxed set of four coasters–featuring New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo–a twee keepsake that you’ll almost feel bad for getting wet. Made in the U.S., they come on thick pulp board.

    Glass ornament by AYTM

    [Photo: Coming Soon]

    $20 at Coming Soon
    Timeless, simple ornaments free of holiday cliché, these geometric glass-and-brass baubles by the Danish brand AYTM will please even the most exacting minimalist. The ornament comes in two shapes and three colors: clear, smoke, and amber.

    Dotted Cube tea towel by Nathalie Du Pasquier for Third Drawer Down

    [Photo: Project No. 8]

    $12 at Project No. 8
    If you know a Memphis stan, they’re likely a fan of Nathalie Du Pasquier, the French illustrator and artist whose energetic, eye-popping patterns defined the movement’s aesthetic. While she dabbles in paintings these days, her line of tea towels with Australian concept store Third Drawer Down features reproduced archival works from the 1980s heyday.

    Anything office essentials by Michael Sodeau

    [Photo: Hay]

    $20 each at HAY
    In case you haven’t heard–the Danish design brand HAY has recently begun shipping to the U.S., and its accessories page is chock-full of affordable treats, including this trio of stately, sculptural office tools by Michael Sodeau. Leave it to the Danes to bring great style to the workplace.

    Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours

    [Photo: Cooper Hewitt Shop]

    $14.95 at Cooper Hewitt Shop
    A pocket-size, taxonomic guide to the world of natural colors from a pre-digital age, this seminal 1814 tome by mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner was brought back into print by the Smithsonian this year. As a bonus, a purchase from the Cooper Hewitt Shop is tax-free, and goes toward supporting the museum’s stellar programs year-round.

    Olivetti Pattern Series pencil set by Made By Memo

    [Photo: Princeton Architectural Press]

    $14.95 at Princeton Architectural Press
    For the analog typography geek in your life, this boxed set is sure to please–each of the 12 graphite pencils features patterns made on a vintage Olivetti typewriter.

    Tiny Gem Calendar

    [Photo: Kiosk]

    $9 at Kiosk
    Alisa Grifo and Marco ter Haar Romeny, founders of the concept store Kiosk, have a keen eye for finding beautiful, everyday objects in different locales around the world. Case in point: this simple, 365-day calendar sourced from Italy that doubles as a daily language lesson.

    Glycerin hand soaps by Wary Meyers

    [Photo: Wary Meyers]

    $14 each at Wary Meyers
    In the hands of the Cumberland, Maine–based duo John and Linda Meyers, these artisanal soaps are downright works of graphic art, and they smell pretty great, too. Choose from an array of colors and designs with witty names, including the popular terrazzo-like Cosmic Yuzu, to the Gucci-esque Italian Tomato Leaf, and a new glow-in-the-dark Limelight.

    Tool bookmarks by Tom Dixon

    [Photo: Tom Dixon]

    $18 each at Tom Dixon
    Digitally etched with the precision of a hand-drawn, crosshatched illustration, these brass sheet-metal designs by Tom Dixon are a tony update on the everyday bookmark.

    Rasymatto coffee cup by Maija Louekari

    [Photo: Marimekko]

    $20 at Marimekko
    The Finnish design brand Marimekko prides itself on its stable of illustrators and designers, and for good reason: its vibrant, graphic wares can be spotted from a mile away. If you gift a mug, choose one that your pal would be proud to keep on their desk. This high-quality design is made of stoneware, with a timeless pattern by Helsinki designer Maija Louekari.

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    Simply getting around can be a challenge for the roughly 288,000 people in the United States who are living with spinal cord injuries as a result of car accidents, falls, or gunshot wounds–and 18,000 new people are affected each year. Motorized wheelchairs help, but only to a point: Not everyone can easily handle the controls.

    But the Wheelie 7, a new adapter kit that can be plugged into any motorized chair, aims to change that by using the controller’s smile–or wink, or even eyebrow raise.

    The breakthrough comes from Hoobox Robotics, a company that uses facial recognition and artificial intelligence to improve human well-being. In this case, much of the underlying technology comes from a partnership with Intel’s AI for Good division, which provides expertise and various kinds of hardware and software to humanity-improving efforts.

    That includes an Intel RealSense computer vision camera to capture and 3D-map different facial expressions, and an onboard mini-computer with Intel Core processors to help the device interpret incoming signals quickly. The entire process happens in near real time–there’s less than a 100-millisecond delay—thanks to Intel’s OpenVINO (aka Visual Inference & Neural Network Optimization) toolkit.

    [Image: Hoobox Robotics]

    The Wheelie 7 requires at least five different face moves to work. Each is associated with a different directional command (forward, back, left, right, or stop). But it can track up to 10 different expressions, including nose wrinkles, eyebrow raises or furrows, and partial smiles so different people can use whatever feels most comfortable.

    “We have mixed a creative idea with the right hardware and the right AI platform, so that when we put it together, we can make this great tool for giving autonomy and mobility back to the users,” says Hoobox CEO and cofounder Paulo Gurgel Pinheiro, who came up with the concept several years ago after someone in a wheelchair flashed him a particularly memorable smile at an airport.

    [Image: Hoobox Robotics]

    Wheelie 7’s name refers to the kit’s setup time: It takes about seven minutes to attach and deploy. Unlike some other high-tech solutions for quadriplegics or people with severe motion limitations, it doesn’t include anything physically intrusive like specialized body sensors. The company is currently testing prototypes with about 60 users, each of whom is spending average of four hours per day in transit. So far, Intel says its camera is proving effective in both direct sunlight and in nearly dark spots like movie theaters.

    Wheelie 7 units will be commercially available in March for a subscription fee of $300 per month. The first batch will be 400 kits, many of which are already reserved.

    “One of the things that we really want to do in this project and other projects is help empower companies like Hoobox who use or modify the existing hardware and software capabilities to improve the well-being of people and the planet,” says Anna Bethke, the head of Intel AI for Good, who adds that this can range from growing vegetables with fewer resources to preserving the Great Wall of China. “It’s just very interesting to see what solutions people can come up with. We continue to strive to connect groups to the AI technology that they require.”

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    ‘Tis the season for an endless stream of party invites,  personal obligations, and a mad dash to meet end-of-year goals. While the holidays challenge professionals to disconnect and tune in to family time, they also present more stressful responsibilities and etiquette recommendations to follow.

    One of the most tried and true traditions is the act of sending holiday cards to employees, customers, and clients, thanking them for their contributions. “In the business and professional world, it is customary to send holiday cards to colleagues and clients during the holiday season for both seasons greetings–Christmas and Hanukkah–as well as New Year’s,” explains career expert Wendi Weiner.

    But it’s a tradition that requires a lot of  organization, planning, and cost.  Considering much of business is conducted online and fewer people send handwritten notes these days, is this practice on its way out?

    Yes and no, according to Weiner. In the past decade, more companies have shifted their approach to an e-card. Although from a cost perspective, this is a budget-friendly alternative, your industry matters.

    When it’s okay to skip sending physical cards

    Weiner explains a technology-forward start-up might choose to send a digital acknowledgement to their customers in the form of a holiday-themed email. Or, when celebrating the season with clients, opt for a digital appreciation for their business, rather than a signed-sealed-delivered token of “thanks.”  But Weiner recommends explaining your decision as part of your messaging. How so? If you’re opting to go sans-paper for the environment, drop a line that illustrates this choice. Or, if you’d rather put the cost of printing toward more booze for the holiday party iterate that. Your network will be more receptive of bending protocol if they understand the sound reasoning behind it.

    When you should still send them

    On the other end of the spectrum, Weiner warns against a non-physical holiday nod if you’re in a more conventional field of work. “The conservative professional and business world still appreciates the tradition of the holiday card, along with the symbolism that it signifies: It reminds you that you are still connected even if you haven’t spoken or seen one another in recent months,” she continues. “They represent a positive tradition and cornerstone of the values that our business world still holds onto.”

    Joy Altimare, career expert at EHE Health, echoes Weiner, adding that there’s an air of nostalgia and respect that is sent with a holiday greeting that many generations are still happy to receive. With only a handful of annual touchpoints a year to reach out to your client or employee base–an anniversary and their birthday, for example–the holidays present another opportunity to maintain your relationship. “I love the art of giving and receiving seasonal greetings to remind us that we are more and have more than transactional relationships with our colleagues and clients,” she explains.

    How to breathe new life into an old tradtion

    If you want to maintain this decorum, but perhaps shake it up a bit, you can send your good vibes and wishes in a creative fashion. Altimare says your phrasing can go a long way in standing apart from the dozens upon dozens of cards someone is likely to receive. Especially if the core mission of your company is built on smart branding and fun language, your holiday cards should reflect your personality–and not just spread the same ol’ message of “joy to the world” or “happy New Year.” “It’s an opportunity to positively represent yourself and your company. The value of the card should reflect the value of the investment. If you’re in luxury category or if you have high-value clients, I would invest in a designed, heavy stock card versus a music-inspired digital version,” she recommends.

    When you have to add a personal note (and when you can skip it)

    What about signing your cards? This is up to you–and dependent on the size of your company–but direct managers should be tasked with writing specific, personal notes to their direct reports. And if you’re the leader of your company, your top clients deserve at least a few sentences about what you’ve accomplished and what they have to look forward to in the coming lap around the sun. “Business suicide is sending out a generic card to everyone in your portfolio. You should write a personalized note so that the impression is more celebratory than mandatory,” Altimare continues. “Include a relevant memory from your interaction with them over the year or create a heartfelt greeting. It’ll mean a lot more.”

    Last but not least, remember procrastination is your enemy during this festive quarter. Since many people travel to visit loved ones and friends during November and December, being first to the post office will speak louder than being last. After all, the excitement of receiving a holiday well-wish can wane as the season lingers. Altimare recommends aiming for the last week of November to ensure a timely delivery.

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    Behold! More than three years after the first design was unveiled in 2015, and more than two years since a revised version was was approved by Mountain View’s city council, Google’s new campus is finally taking shape in the middle of Mountain View, California, like a titanic metal circus tent.

    The new campus, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and Thomas Heatherwick, is located next to Google’s current headquarters, which itself once served as the headquarters of legendary 3D graphics computer firm SGI until the search engine turned it into the Googleplex in 2003.

    A lot has changed since the project was first unveiled: The final design is smaller than the original 2015 plan, at “only” 595,000 square feet, and Ingels’s and Heatherwick’s design has also undergone aesthetic changes. It no longer uses transparent Buckminster Fuller-style geodesic domes. Instead, as this new video by the 111th and Dezeen shows, the roof is made up of curved rectangular and triangular sections that are completely opaque and will be covered by solar panels.

    In terms of tech offices designed by big-name architects, Apple’s Norman Foster-designed campus dwarves Google’s new HQ at 2.8 million square feet, thanks to its one-mile ring and auxiliary buildings built on a 175-acre plot. Then again, I like to think that the real Google headquarters is probably built in an undisclosed location, perhaps deep below the Earth’s mantle, or on a remote volcanic island somewhere, surrounded by laser-equipped cybersharks.

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    Choose your fighter: Dick Cheney or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I mean, obviously, it’s gotta be RBG (unless you’re one of those roots-for-Darth-Vader types) in real life, but what about at the movies? This winter, biopics on the former VP and the current (for at least two more years, please!) Supreme Court Justice arrive in theaters on the same day. The former is pitched as a nonfiction dark comedy while the latter is more of a straightforward biopic. Vice stars a shockingly plus-size Christian Bale and is directed by The Big Short‘s Adam McKay, while The Basis of Sex stars Felicity Jones and is directed by Deep Impact’s Mimi Leder. It’s a legitimately tough choice, as both films are just some of the cinematic treats in an overflowing stocking of Christmas Day releases. For one glorious day, it will be just as frustrating to decide which movie to go see as it is to figure out what show to binge through next. The bad news is there’s also a lot to watch at home, including a new season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-slay Spectacular. Please respect our privacy during this difficult time, space aliens!

    Anyway, have a look below at everything else coming down the pike in the dwindling days of 2018, so you can navigate your entertainment route to the new year.






    • The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash, December 4
    • North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah, December 4
    • My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren, December 4
    • Pandemic by Robin Cook, December 11
    • The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke, December 11
    • The Sea by Rikke Villadsen, December 11
    • The Most Beautiful Night of the Soul: More Stories from the Middle East and Beyond by Sandor Jaszberenyi, December 18
    • Summer of the Fawn by Alain Laboile, December 18
    • I Refuse for the Devil to Take My Soul: Inside Cook County Jail by Lili Kobielski, December 24
    • Helen Levitt by Helen Levitt, December 25
    • Seta Manoukian: Painting in Levitation by Seta Manoukian, December 30

    [Photo Illustration: Samir Abady; Welcome to Marwen: Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures; Nightflyers: Jonathan Hession/Syfy; Mary Queen of Scots: Parisa Tag/Focus Features, Liam Daniel/Focus Features; Holmes and Watson: Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures Entertainment; Second Act: Barry Wetcher/STX Entertainment; On the Basis of Sex: Jonathan Wenk/Focus Features; Marvel’s Runaways: Greg Lewis/Hulu; The Hookup Plan: Stephanie Branchu/Netflix; Vice: Greig Fraser/Annapurna Pictures; Bird Box: Saeed Adyani/Netflix; Roma: Carlos Somonte/Netflix; Dumplin’: courtesy of Netflix; Vox Lux: Courtesy of NEON]

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    Brutalist buildings have become nostalgic icons. While you’d be hard-pressed to find many architects building new Brutalist buildings, there are maps dedicated to helping fans discover classics in cities around the world. There are books that look like concrete. There is even Brutalist-themed interior design, including Brutalist wallpaper, blankets, and pillows.

    And now, there are Brutalist Christmas cards, perfect for architects and Brutalism lovers this holiday season.

    [Image: Nick Miner (photo)/Anna Ayres (illustration)/courtesy In From The Storm]

    The cards feature photographs by photographer Nick Miner of three buildings in London, including the Barbican arts center, which was designed by Chamberlin, Powell & Bon; Glenkerry House; an apartment building designed by Brutalist architect Ernő Goldfinger; and Welbeck Street Car Park, designed by Michael Blampied and Partners. Artist Anna Ayres gave them a holiday twist by adding snow to their rooftops and sprinkling snowflakes across the backdrops. Miner and Ayres are the cofounders of the U.K.-based creative agency In From the Storm.

    Brutalism’s resurgence is still something of a cult phenomenon, but some believe it could experience the same kind of popularity that mid-century modernism has in recent years. So if you want to be ahead of the curve, these Brutalist cards might be perfect for this season. Because nothing says holiday cheer like a big chunk of concrete.

    A set of six cards is $15, available for purchase here.

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    As Amazon trudges toward its goal to overtake nearly every industry, it is expanding its technology arsenal, too. Over the last year, the company has unveiled its Amazon Go stores, where customers can go in, take items, and leave without checking out. Now the Wall Street Journalreports that Amazon is testing out this cashier-less technology in bigger stores. This news will probably send shivers down the spines of many Whole Foods workers.

    Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion. It has tried to stay mum on what exactly its grand plans are for the high-end grocery chain, but Whole Foods employees have been worried. Over the last year, some say working conditions have worsened. In response, some Whole Foods workers have been trying to unionize (something Amazon warehouse employees have also been trying to do, too).

    While many Whole Foods employee complaints revolve around daily working conditions, another latent fear is a near future where most workers are no longer necessary. Were Amazon to implement Go’s cashier-less tech in the supermarkets, it would undoubtedly reduce the demand for cashiers.

    That Amazon is looking to expand its cashier-less technology is precisely the sort of bad news workers were fearing. According to the Wall Street Journal, which cited anonymous well-placed sources, Amazon has been testing it in Seattle in what looks like a “big store.” The company hasn’t confirmed that this means it would be used for Whole Foods, but the connection seems natural. I reached out to both Amazon and Whole Foods; an Amazon spokesperson offered me this statement: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

    Of course, none of this should come as a surprise. While Amazon has been reticent to divulge its precise Whole Foods plans, the company has a decades-long track record of slowly building out new services and then, when proven effective, scaling them to insane heights. This is the playbook Amazon strictly followed when it launched its marketplace, its cloud services, and its ever-growing artificial technology projects, to name just a few.

    When word first got out a few years ago that Amazon was dabbling with cashier-less technology, it was nearly a given that the company had plans to use it more widely down the line. And we saw this with Amazon’s frequent announcements about new Go store locations.

    In this same vein, Amazon has continually invested in ways it could become less reliant on humans. This is the other part of its playbook. What CEO Jeff Bezos wants is as big an empire as possible with the smallest of margins. What better way to do that than reduce the need for human wages?

    Of course, we don’t know what Amazon’s precise plans are, but this alleged technology expansion gives us some valuable clues. If there were ever an event to mobilize Whole Foods workers to protect their livelihoods, this would be it.

    You can read the full Wall Street Journal report here. 

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    Ikea’s business model is centered on the suburbs. With huge footprints and sprawling parking lots, Ikea’s big box stores need a lot of space–and they’re designed for you to go to them.

    But in 2018, when the instant gratification of online shopping with free shipping is expected, that model is starting to fail–and Ikea is trying to adapt. The company is shifting its focus to urban centers, with a plan to open 30 stores within cities rather than on their outskirts. Today, Ikea announced that the first of these urban stores will be located in Manhattan, opening in spring 2019.

    The shift is a necessary one: Ikea’s profits have dropped 40% over the last year in the U.K., and the retailer recently announced that it would be cutting 7,500 jobs. The company is dramatically shifting its strategy: Instead of requiring you to drive a car to one of its physical locations, it’s investing in a more robust online presence (finally!), building stores closer to where more people actually live, and even bought a startup that helps people assemble their furniture. Meanwhile, the company is targeting people in cities with initiatives like a new series of products devoted to urban farming.

    The new location, which will open on the east side of Manhattan a few blocks from Central Park, will offer products tailor-made for city dwellers (read: furniture suited for tiny apartments). Plus, the company’s press release states that the new store “will give customers the opportunity to discover, select, and order Ikea products for delivery to their home, which is what urban residents want and need.” It’s unclear whether that means everything at the store will be delivery only, or if people will still be able to walk out of the store loaded with boxes, but it’d be crazy to expect every shopper to lug their Ikea boxes home on the subway.

    Whether that delivery is affordable enough for people accustomed to the convenience of free shipping from Amazon and Wayfair remains to be seen. I’ve reached out to Ikea for more details.

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