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    It’s the day after New Year’s, and perhaps you’re still hung over. You may also be scrambling to figure out how best to begin your New Year’s resolutions. If shedding the 10 pounds you perhaps gained over the holiday season is one of them, Chipotle has a new product for you.

    The fast casual Tex-Mex chain has announced a new line of “Lifestyle Bowls,” aimed at people on the ketogenic, paleo, or Whole30 diets. While these diets slightly differ, the philosophy is more or less then same–cut out carbs and eat more protein. Essentially, Chipotle is offering a line of burrito bowls that will adhere to the principles of these trendy diet plans.

    Here are the new offerings:

    • Whole30 Salad Bowl: Romaine lettuce, carnitas, fajita veggies, tomato salsa, and guacamole
    • Paleo Salad Bowl: Romaine lettuce, barbacoa, fajita veggies, green salsa, and guacamole
    • Keto Salad Bowl: Romaine lettuce, carnitas, red salsa, cheese, and guacamole
    • Double Protein Bowl: White rice, black beans, chicken (full portion), steak (full portion), red salsa, romaine lettuce, and sour cream

    It’s a smart addition to the menu because Chipotle’s offerings were already friendly to these diets. I once tried out keto, and discovered that Chipotle was one of the only places I could go to for lunch. And, of course, these bowls aren’t really anything new–just a new arrangement of the food the restaurant has always served.

    But as Chipotle enters 2019, it’s going to need to try to find promotions like these. It spent the last two years trying to stage a comeback after an E. coli breakout–and then had a few other customer health issues along the way. As a result, the company has had a bumpy ride.

    Will offering a paleo option be enough? As long as the new options don’t come with a free side of bacteria.

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    We encounter carpeting every day, in offices, homes, stores–almost any interior setting. According to the Environmental News Network, carpets and rugs cover 70% of all flooring in the United States, a figure largely credited to the rise of corporate America and the white-collar workforce of the 1970s and ’80s. Much of that carpeting derives from vinyl, and until 25 years ago, hardly anyone was aware of the harmful effects of a petroleum-based production chain that releases hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxins and harmful chemicals into the environment and our bodies.

    Nowadays, those risks are more common knowledge, largely brought to light by one of the world’s largest manufacturers of industrial carpeting, Interface Inc. Its late founder and chairman, Ray C. Anderson, made it a personal mission to set in place a “midcourse correction” of the industry that was his lifeblood–seemingly against his own business interests. But the new mission was a rousing success; under it, the company doubled its sales and profits.

    Today, Interface faces competition from manufacturers who spot a business opportunity  in environmentally minded flooring as climate change becomes an international crisis. In the absence of its founder, who died in 2011, will Interface be able to uphold his legacy?

    [Photo: courtesy Interface]

    A spear in the chest epiphany

    Anderson spent more than two decades growing a modest operation into a global, lucrative billion-dollar operation. Then he began to steer his company toward radically sustainable practices in 1994, after reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, which triggered in him a profound “spear in the chest” epiphany, as he said in a 2009 TED talk. Curious to know his company’s exact environmental footprint, Anderson had his engineers calculate the waste cost of its overhead, and was shocked by the findings: more than 1 billion pounds of raw virgin materials, a majority of it oil and natural gas, used to produce nylon and polyester-based textiles that were the backbone of his product line–not to mention the whole carpet industry. It was then that Anderson resolved to disrupt his own business model.

    For the following 17 years, up until his death in 2011, Anderson worked to meet the requirements of Mission Zero, Interface’s program and pledge to  halt the use and production of virgin materials by 2020. On his watch, the company launched the ReEntry buyback program, its first major sustainability initiative, in 1995. The program collects and reclaims post-consumer, vinyl-backed carpet tiles–whether or not they’ve been produced by their competitors–as a core source of its manufacturing process. The ReEntry program, which continues today, has since diverted more than 360 million pounds of carpet to date in North and South America. Such programs are fairly common in retail nowadays, but that wasn’t the case in 1995–and it made environmentalists hail Anderson as an unlikely hero of the sustainable movement.

    “Carpet tiles aren’t like yogurt or baby bottles: it’s very much a commodity product used in the contract trade,” says Bill Walsh, a Greenpeace veteran and founder of the Healthy Building Network. “He really took full responsibility without equivocation for the impact of his business. And I don’t think anybody had really ever done that, in an industrial, contract-facing business.”

    [Photo: courtesy Interface]

    The right moment

    Architect and sustainability leader William McDonough, along with a handful of scientists, activists, and entrepreneurs, had been called upon to participate in an “Eco Dream Team” that Anderson assembled to help advise on Interface’s “midcourse correction,” as he called it. It was auspicious timing. This was just one year after the U.S. Green Building Council’s introduction of LEED in 1993. The green building standard, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, incentivized the transformation of the building, construction, and materials industries by awarding and rating projects by environmental performance. It made green flooring a hot commodity, and Interface was there to reap the rewards. Anderson went on to pen three books about the experience: Mid-Course Correction, in 1998; and Confessions of a Radical Industrialist and Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist, both published in 2009. “Spreading his message to the corporate world and beyond, he [became] a great proselytizer for a gentler way of doing business,” McDonough, author of the seminal book Cradle to Cradle, declared in a 2007 Time Magazine piece.

    [Photo: courtesy Interface]

    The challenge ahead

    Today, competitors at companies such as Shaw and Mohawk offer a range of environmentally focused programs that threaten Interface’s eco-dominance. Interface itself has a major challenge ahead to meet the standards Anderson laid out; the company is less than two years away from Anderson’s initial 2020 goal. And Interface has come under fire for new initiatives, including the launch of a luxury vinyl tile (LVT) product offering last year, which some environmental advocates have criticized for catering to a demand for vinyl products, rather than curtailing it.

    Short of eliminating the entire product category, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon, Interface has been working to reinvent it, striking a balance between profit and public interest to the best of its ability. “Not all vinyl is created equal,” as Interface’s current CEO, Jay Gould, explains, noting that the LVT collections are made from 100% recycled PVC, and “optimized for recycling” in the manufacturing process. By sourcing its materials for the line secondhand, the collection meets a consumer demand while giving a second life to vinyl products that may otherwise end up in landfill, he says.

    Gould is mindful of the legacy he has to uphold. Under Gould’s leadership, the company has implemented a Climate Takeback program to achieve a carbon-negative business model that makes use of raw materials that can harness carbon from the environment. And earlier this year, Interface became among the first flooring companies to announce a goal of carbon neutrality. Through its Carbon Neutral Floors program, Interface has reduced the average carbon footprint of its products by an estimated 60%–and to account for the other 40%, it tries to offset the carbon impact of its own products by funding initiatives like renewable energy and reforestation. “We really talk about four key stakeholders,” Gould adds. “Our customers, our employees, our shareholders–and the environment.”

    Interface was a winner of the Timeless Design category in the 2018 Innovation By Design Awards. See all honorees here

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    A million plastic sprinkles. A neon-lit sound bath. A giant egg carton, welcoming you to step inside. Chances are, you’ve come across at least one of these sets, designed expressly for staging cool photos, at some point in your Instagram feed. This is recreation in the social media age, designed for users who live to get the ‘gram. Pics or it doesn’t happen.

    Instagram is no longer just an app, but a visual lens through which we navigate physical spaces. With 1 billion users worldwide, the social media platform has given rise to a cottage industry of photogenic pop-up “experiences” and installations that cater to preening users looking to capture a memorable, and envy-inducing, experience.

    [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

    You could argue that this trend began in museums and galleries, with blockbuster interactive installations by artists like Yayoi Kusama and Random International’s Rain Room giving rise to a new breed of cultural tourism. But the Museum of Ice Cream, dreamed up by 26-year-old founder and Parsons grad Maryellis Bunn, is largely credited with kickstarting the social phenomenon in 2016 with the launch of its first three-month run in New York, later drawing celebs like Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Kim Kardashian as it continued on in Los Angeles and Miami. In fact, it was predated by Refinery29’s experience, 29 Rooms, which launched during New York Fashion Week in 2015, first as a staff party of sorts, then as a live event open to the public. Its 29 different activations are billed as “speed dating for ideas and art.

    Since then, the market for experiential events has boomed, with a panoply of increasingly banal themes and copycat events popping up in cities across the country. There’s the Museum of Pizza, the Museum of Selfies, and the Egg House; an avocado-themed one called ‘CADO; the yellow, smiley face-filled Happy Place; Candytopia, The Future of Sports, The Dream Machine; the list continues.

    In general, visitors are charged anywhere from $15 to $38 for a single-admission entry to an interactive experience that will likely involve an average of nine to ten elaborately designed rooms (usually including at least one involving mirrors, one giant set you can climb into, and one pool of something to jump into) and a few stops for sugar-laden treats over the course of an hour-long visit. It’s like Disneyland for the Instagram set, timed and condensed for digital attention spans. At least a few of the rooms are bound to be advertorials–sponsored experiences that are baked into the space. Refinery29’s 29 Rooms includes a hefty dose of branded displays, presented in varying degrees of subtlety, with companies like Aldo, Kraft Heinz, Pantene, Revlon, and Smirnoff.

    [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]
    The business of experiential event design, as spawned by Instagram, is very real: According to Refinery29’s post-event figures from 2017, social content from 29Rooms generated over 300 million social impressions–reaching about 1 in every 2 Instagram users, by the company’s estimation. A sizable portion of those installations were backed by brands, and as such, the market for IRL spon-con is booming. Last year, the most-Instagrammed museums included the Museum of Ice Cream at No. 10, in the company of august institutions like the Louvre (No. 1) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (No. 7). MOIC drew sponsors like Tinder, American Express, and Target, which teamed to produce a line of MOIC kids’ clothing and accessories.

    Some critics have painted these Instagram playhouses as a blithe dumbing-down of culture, in which “true” art-viewing experiences have been bastardized into a superficial, photogenic romp that users will happily pay to enter and be peddled to by advertisers along the way. On Instagram, after all, sponsored posts aren’t a necessary evil but a source of cachet and credibility; aspiring, would-be influencers have even been known to fake brand deals for a bit of street cred.

    At the same time, some designers are working to take what we know about Instagram spaces and use them to lift up designers and creative communities–offering a more nuanced depiction of how the app is changing the way we experience space. One such bright spot includes the Color Factory, which centers around the phenomena of color and creativity, and has managed to cut through the noise with serious art and design credibility–even as its installations charge $38 a head, and include three sponsors (Maybelline, Gymboree, and Anagram, the world’s largest producer of foil balloons). After an initial one-month run in San Francisco last year extended for several more to meet demand, the organizers launched a bigger, higher-production edition in New York City this summer, which was also planned for one month, but is now likely to continue on into 2019.

    I took a behind-the-scenes tour of Color Factory’s New York space one Wednesday morning, when it’s closed for weekly maintenance, and picked the brain of founder Jordan Ferney, a veteran event planner and a career blogger, on how to design memorable experiences in the age of Instagram.

    [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

    Find great talent and let them do their thing

    The idea for Color Factory began organically, Ferney says, as she found herself pitching more and more immersive, experiential projects with clients in her event planning work. She had long thought in the back of her mind that it’d be more fun to launch her own pop-up space, working with artist friends and designers in her immediate circle of friends.

    Artist Leah Rosenberg, whose work approach centers on the phenomenology of color in her stark, geometric compositions, was among the first collaborators to sign on, and helped shape the overall theme. “We weren’t trying to create a brand, necessarily,” Ferney says. “We just wanted to make something creative that people could relate to, have it be interesting, and present a unique perspective.”

    Focusing the experience around the rather broad theme of color provides obvious opportunities for Instagram-friendly eye candy, but it also smartly lends itself to exploring the world of creativity and art-making. Color Factory’s collaborators include designers Andrew Kuo, Tamara Shopsin, Jon Burgerman, writer Molly Young, color historian Kassia St. Clair, Alex Kalman’s pocket-sized gallery of oddities, Mmuseumm, nonprofit organizations like Dave Eggers’s 826NYC, and even the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

    Make it inclusive and human-centered

    The Color Factory is undeniably kid-friendly and especially popular with young families in the mornings and afternoons—but its creators make it a point to catch the after-work crowd by staying open until 10 p.m. each day. It’s a popular meet-up destination for influencers, friend groups, or couples on dates, says general manager Becky Sanchez, and the venue’s rules list that all attendees must be 18 or older, or accompanied by an adult, which keeps the space from becoming a funhouse. Accessibility and inclusivity was important to Ferney and her collaborators, too, and that extends to the exhibition content, which contains several jokes for the adult crowd, safely placed at above eye-level from kids. In San Francisco, a room of scratch-and-sniff wallpaper, a la Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, Ferney says, slyly included one scented like cigarettes, six feet up the wall.

    As a mother of three, Ferney was also sensitive to a particular annoyance of photo-friendly spaces: As the person behind the camera, moms tend to have tons of photos of their children, but not with them. The installations take this into account with photo booths built into the space; similar to photo packages offered at amusement parks, visitors are given a card to swipe at each station, then receive the images by email at the very end. The system doubles as a convenient way to manage crowds, get everyone in the photo together, and temporarily get them focused on the space, rather than their smartphones.

    [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

    Crowd control is key

    New York–based graphic designer Erin Jang conceived of the Color Factory’s overall branding and visual identity, which centers on a simple system of color dots that are used in the logo (a giant smiley face), on the photobooth cards, and in pamphlets–but also cleverly extends to some of the sweet treats given throughout the experience. You’re welcomed with colorful mochi ice cream balls from at the entrance, and later, a rainbow array of perfectly circular macaroons. In one room, you can take and wear a round, monochrome pin-on button in the color of your choosing; and on the floors, dots strategically designate the next stop, suggesting the best spot to snap a photo, or leading you to the next destination.

    The use of dots–which, intentionally or not, recall Kusama’s obsessive use of dots–are a subtle and effective visual cue that cohesively ties the rooms and experiences together in an artful and logistically sound way. Despite a maze-like plan, the interior layout of the venue is designed as a one-way path to keep visitors moving along, and each photo station and takeaway goodie functions almost as an incentive-based, gamified element to the experience. Like a Pac-Man quest to collect all the dots, there’s little reason to backpedal once you’ve been sated.

    [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

    Design for all five senses

    There’s no denying that people come to Color Factory for photo-ops–that much is clear from the moment you walk through the Seussian, colorfully striped building facade–but even the most cynical visitor would end up enjoying the immersive installations, which are designed to appeal to multiple senses beyond sight.

    Colorful, dot-shaped sweets stay on brand and keep people wired, and some vendors, like Il Laboratorio del Gelato, the popular ice cream shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, have made custom flavors just for the installation. Nearly everything is designed to be touched, and invites play, from a room of xylophone chimes to a disco-themed dance room that plays tunes. Scents are not part of the sensorial wonderland in the New York edition (and thankfully for germophobes, the giant blue ball pit does get cleaned, with a special industrial vacuum used weekly).

    [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

    Skip the gimmicks and invest in local designers and businesses

    While the fantastical space is very much a sweet escape from reality, Ferney and her collaborators made sure to go the extra mile to root and customize the experience to New York City.

    “The San Francisco and New York installations were two totally different things. San Francisco was just us being like, ‘I hope this art project doesn’t make me mortgage my house!’ I joke that I’m really good at breaking even,” Ferney jokes. “If the goal becomes just to make money, I get not very interested in things; I have to not make that the primary goal, or I lose interest pretty quick. It’s not that I want to make a profit–I definitely do–I just know that my own personal drive, and the bottom line just takes the magic out of it. It all started as a passion project for us, and turned out to be shockingly successful.”

    And tapping into local culture, it turns out, is also a good practice. Jang and others collected and notated hundreds of vibrant colors found on long walks throughout Manhattan, from Soho storefronts to parks, basketball courts, and Harlem bodega awnings, and used them to create a temporary “Color Walk” installation featuring the city’s spectrum of hues, uptown at the Cooper Hewitt. In one room, a series of telephone sets playback recorded docent tours from the most recognizable voice in New York.

    “Our strength is strong creative. The people we brought on have reputations, a certain caliber of creative work, and that’s the kind of work we were trying to produce, something interesting, with substance,” Ferney attests. “We wanted to have it come from a good and thoughtful place, and not just waste people’s time or make them feel like they’re being tricked into something. We really worked to come at it with an editorial point of view; none of them are just a set.”

    [Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

    Get people out exploring the neighborhood

    Even with all of my questions, snooping and poking around the venue at my own pace, empty and all to myself aside from the maintenance staff, my visit topped out at less than an hour–the official estimate listed in Color Factory’s online FAQ.

    While she shies from sharing revenue figures from the venture thus far, Ferney says the surprise success of San Francisco edition allowed them to take on more ambitious programming in NYC: For instance, at the end of the romp, visitors are given a neighborhood map of the local area, plotted with secret destinations–each marked in colorful dots, of course–leading to a scavenger hunt of special surprises, one of which includes an ATM dispensing illustrations by Jason Polan.

    Could a neighborhood scavenger hunt, complete with art prizes, become the analog version of Pokemon Go, unhampered by the threat of data collection and geo-location services? If so, it was a welcome nudge away from my screen, and into the urban playground.

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    As some CEOs look ahead to the new year–and look back on 2018–they take stock of where their business is going and what hurdles they might face in the coming year. For some, the regulatory landscape of their industry can play a big role in how they scale and appeal to customers; for others, raising funding can prove tricky and take them away from their day-to-day workload and leadership goals.

    We asked a number of CEOs across industries what they perceive as their biggest business challenge in 2019.

    Scaling without sacrificing culture

    “Day in and day out, I’m constantly putting out fires which makes it a challenge to stay focused on the big picture, especially when it comes to building and maintaining our company’s culture. One of our most important tenets is doing right by our students, parents and instructors–in every way possible. As a fast-growing company, we know that the level of service and engagement we provide could easily be compromised. I’m making it a priority to ensure that we hold ourselves accountable every step of the way.”

    —Vivian Shen, CEO of coding startup Juni Learning

    Navigating regulatory hurdles

    “The cannabis industry has so many challenges that our team and industry are navigating every day, from banking to a lack of external services to aggressive regulation. The reality is, this is the business we are in, so we are equipped to handle those types of challenges. What we need to be laser focused on is ensuring that Flow Kana is scaling as fast as possible to meet the consumer demand–and we are growing in the right type of way, prioritizing quality, people, and community.”

    —Michael Steinmetz, CEO of cannabis startup Flow Kana

    Staying lean but selling big

    “We sell to small and medium-sized businesses, so we can’t afford to have a huge sales force. That means that our offer needs to sell itself. We have to communicate really clearly and iterate constantly to ensure we’re making it easy for busy business owners to understand the value of our service.”

    —Alicia Thomas, CEO of fitness tech startup Dibs

    Evolving your company mission

    “Code2040 is really evolving. We are going from being a pipeline organization to one that addresses the structural barriers to inclusion. It’s going to be my job that our community understands the importance and urgency of the shift.”

    Karla Monterroso, CEO of the diversity nonprofit Code2040

    Making people care about your cause

    “As the CEO of a poverty-fighting organization, my biggest challenge will be maintaining the momentum we’ve gained in the war against poverty and injustice around the world, despite significant headwinds. Extreme poverty has declined by nearly half in 20 years. That’s such good news. But the number of people around the world who are not getting enough to eat is up for the third year in a row after many years of progress. We must fight against climate change, complacency, and the growing threat to America’s humanitarian leadership.”

    —Michelle Nunn, CEO of humanitarian aid organization Care

    Prioritizing self-care

    “Finding work-life balance is always a struggle as a CEO. Running any company requires constant prioritization, but at an early-stage startup, the pace is especially rapid, and things change constantly. There’s a desire to always put the business first, but I know that without proper self-care and clear boundaries between work and life, there’s real burnout risk and it will be difficult to perform my best as a CEO. In 2019, my goal is to work harder at setting boundaries and making sure I remain my best, healthiest self.”

    —Nicole Gibbons, CEO of direct-to-consumer paint startup Clare

    Setting boundaries around communication tools

    “Defining effective guardrails around communication across tools like Slack and email is especially critical as we grow, so we don’t impact productivity–and ensure healthy and direct communication is happening via appropriate channels.”

    —Falon Fatemi, CEO of AI startup Node

    Letting go and delegating

    “[I’m] switching my mindset from working ‘in the business’ to working ‘on the business’. SnapTravel is currently at about 80 employees and we will be doubling over the next year. In the best interests of a company of this size, I need to spend more time working on strategic initiatives–which are often outside of the office–versus working in the day-to-day weeds in the business. I love being a hands-on business operator, which makes this shift quite challenging.”

    —Hussein Fazal, CEO of travel startup SnapTravel

    Staying present while raising capital

    “I’ll be raising capital next year, which is always challenging because it takes me out of the office and forces me to let go of other projects and responsibilities. One of my leadership responsibilities is to identify challenges before they disrupt productivity, which is a lot harder to do remotely. On the bright side, this is a great time for other members of my team to step up and strengthen their own leadership skills.”

    —Nicole Centeno, CEO of food startup Splendid Spoon 

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    What: The first trailer for The Drone.

    Who: Director Jordan Rubin, of Zombeavers fame.

    Why we care: The “from hell” genre of horror movies may have peaked in the ’90s. That decade saw filmmakers exploring the dog from hell (Man’s Best Friend), the nanny from hell (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle), and of course the temp from hell (The Temp), along with so many others. In the intervening decades, the horror genre may have grown more sophisticated, but there’s still room for a cheapie throwback flick that updates the formula–and that flick is The Drone.

    Look, the title pretty much says it all. It’s a drone and it is out to kill you. However, putting this particular device at the center of a horror movie opens up a whole other can of automated worms. Although the trailer unveils a villain in the form of a ridiculous, bloodthirsty drone (a dead serial killer’s consciousness powers the thing), the overarching idea taps into some very serious and real concerns of modern life. We are surrounded by Siris and Alexas and Apple Watches, and all manner of devices invented to enrich our lives. Even as we get fully adjusted to incorporating AI and wearables into our day-to-day lives, it’s difficult to completely shed any lingering distrust; the sense that somebody could flip a switch and turn all of these devices against us. Add to that the historic lethality of drones, and it’s an inspired subject for a “from hell”-type flick.

    Watch the trailer below.

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    The next time you mention tuna salad in passing and then Google serves you an ad for tuna salad, try this petty revenge: “Hey, Google, donate $10 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”

    Google Assistant has quietly introduced support for donations, according to 9to5 Google. That means that if you have a Google Home or some other form of Google Assistant with payments enabled (that bit is key), you now have an easy way to make a contribution to a worthy cause while you’re thinking about it, like when you read a news story about a tsunami, wildfire, or man-made disaster.

    All you have to do is ask Google to “make a donation” or “donate money” to a charity in the United States, and your trusty Google Assistant will direct you to pick a monetary amount and a charity, which is routed to Network for Good, a nonprofit that processes donations for charities. For example, according to 9to5 Google, say, “Hey, Google, donate $10 to Red Cross,” and Assistant will ask would-be donors to confirm by saying either “donate now” or saying “yes.” Then a summary will include all the details of the transaction, including the official name of the charity, to make sure money is going to the right organization.

    To ensure that your weak-willed children aren’t lured into spending all your hard-earned cash on charity cases by the dulcet tones of Sarah McLachlan, there are a few safeguards in place. Namely, donations have to be confirmed on your phone if donations were started through a smart speaker.

    Donations on Assistant launched in early December, while Amazon’s Alexa launched a similar feature back in April 2018.

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    People who wanted to spend some of their winter vacation at Yosemite National Park were in a for a rude—and gross—awakening. Thanks to the government shutdown, some campsites at the park were also shut down due to “human waste issues,” which is pretty much the same excuse that U.S. Congress is using.

    As the government shutdown persists, nature lovers are coping with overflowing toilets and garbage cans, and improvised open-air bathrooms. (Too bad Ansel Adams isn’t around to photograph that, eh?) As National Park Service employees are part of the many furloughed federal employees, park services like clearing icy and snow-covered roads, cleaning restrooms, maintaining paths, and keeping visitors safe and informed are not working. The Washington Post notes that the Trump administration initially kept most of the parks open with skeleton crews to enforce some of the rules. However, the number of visitors has swelled, “no one is at the gate,” and “no one is collecting a fee.”

    Now, parks across the nation have had to restrict camping, and the AP reports that private companies, state-funded groups, and volunteers are picking up the slack, collecting trash, advising visitors, and even opening up bathrooms. Less civic-minded folks are illegally off-roading, tromping though delicate natural areas that are off-limits, and leaving behind mountains of garbage that can endanger wildlife.

    Of course, the national parks aren’t just vast expanses of nature in the Wild West, but also include sites like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (New York State is keeping them open) and the National Mall and the monuments in the backyard of Congress and the White House. As the Post reports, it’s about to get worse for Washington residents and visitors: Starting on Wednesday, the Smithsonian Institution has no choice but to close all of its museums and the National Zoo due to lack of funding.

    Check out the photo of the garbage heap at the Washington Monument. America the Beautiful indeed.

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    Several years ago, Claire Schlemme cofounded an organic juice company in Boston, only to be disappointed by what her recipes left behind: plenty of pulp, a nutritious byproduct going to waste.

    Claire Schlemme [Photo: Renewal Mill/Hermann’s]

    So she started another company to change that. In mid-2016, Schlemme became the CEO of Renewal Mill, a public benefit corporation that reduces food waste by transforming fiber-rich scraps from food processing operations into flour that can be sold wholesale. It’s now joined forces with Hodo Foods–the organic soy brand that sells tofu to Whole Foods, Target, Chipotle, Sweetgreen, and many Michelin-starred chefs–to make something nutritious made from okara, the main leftover from making tofu.

    Tofu represents a particularly good test case because it yields such a huge amount of byproduct. The initial recipe requires soy milk, which must be extracted from dry soybeans, which are boiled and blended to produce the liquid that eventually results in tofu. Every pound of soy milk yields at least its own weight in wet pulp. For major manufacturers, this presents a pretty big storage and logistics hurdle.

    Hodo used to unload it as animal feed for local dairies or livestock programs. But Renewal takes the pulp and dries it. The resulting flakes can be milled into flour with 46 grams of fiber. (There’s barely any in traditional white flour.) For Hodo, the partnership will ensure that the company turns 100% of their raw material into something edible. The tofu maker currently diverts between 5% and 10% of its processing leftovers to Renewal. It expects to ramp up quickly because there’s an additional financial incentive: Renewal pays about two and a half times more for the unrefined material than Hodo was previously selling the pulp for.

    [Photo: Renewal Mill/Hermann’s]
    On Renewal’s side, okara flour sells for about the same price as other alternative flours. The Oakland-based company already makes its own chocolate chip cookies available in the Bay Area, and is in talks to develop a line of gluten-free cookies with Balhsen, Germany’s largest cookie manufacturer. It has also sold flour through grocery delivery company Imperfect Produce and the meal kit service Local Crate.

    [Photo: Renewal Mill/Hermann’s]
    The concept earned Renewal a spot and equity investment from Techstars Farm to Fork accelerator this summer. In October, the company secured a research and development partnership with Cargill, which could expand the appeal of its ingredients to all sorts of food manufacturers. “Okara really struck a chord with me because it was so similar to some of the challenges I had with the juice business, but at this much greater scale,” Schlemme says. “It was this light bulb moment. Wow, this could be a really interesting solution to both the food waste challenge and also affordable nutrition.”

    “Renewal is looking at industrial scale production and the impact [of that] is what excites me,” says Minh Tsai, the founder and CEO of Hodo, who is also an adviser for Renewal. Tsai emphasizes that okara will hopefully be just the first of many byproducts in the company’s portfolio. Renewal isn’t just selling one ingredient but a whole new way of sourcing them.

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    Democrats late last week announced they were changing a bunch of rules for this newly elected House of Representatives. The rule changes involved automatically raising the debt ceiling when a new budget is passed along with other procedural tweaks. One rule that involves spending offsets, however, is causing controversy between Democrats.

    The issue at hand is called “pay-as-you-go,” or “Paygo,” and it essentially requires that all new spending proposed by the House be offset either by tax increases or budget cuts. Despite the Democrats making strides on many rules changes, some are putting their foot down about the re-inclusion of this one:

    To understand why progressive reps like Ro Khanna and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez oppose this Nancy Pelosi-proposed rule, it’s important to learn the context. Though many believe it to be a logical way to rein in spending, some argue that Paygo is a way to handicap progressive programs. In this telling, it is essentially a perfect articulation of conservative bad faith, in that it lets Republicans have a check on new spending after completely overhauling the tax code to favor the rich, which increased the deficit to new heights.

    What’s more important is that Paygo has been shown to do real political damage. The New Republic, citing a recent paper, explains that “Affordable Care Act’s subsidies were artificially made smaller because of pay-go rules.” That same publication describes the rule as specifically harmful to the U.S. economy when the country is in the midst of an economic downturn (which is likely to happen any moment now).

    In short, despite it being a rule embraced by many in the center–and championed by Democrats like Pelosi–Paygo is seen by progressives as a way to gesture bipartisanship while both pandering to conservatives and likely hindering the country’s economy. Which is why some member of the new progressive-leaning House are fighting its reintroduction to the House rules. Lawmakers like Ocasio-Cortez are fighting for new legislations like Medicare for all–and Paygo rules would make it nigh impossible to pass such new and effective programs.

    A number of Democrats will need to oppose these House rules in order to halt their passage. But with high-profile politicians like Khanna and Ocasio-Cortez signaling their opposition, it may be able to happen.

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    Navigating through Netflix’s endless viewing options has never been easy. And now the company has made it even more complicated—or at least more geeky.

    For those who want to dive deep into Netflix’s über-specific sub-genres and search for movies and TV shows that fall under headings like “Canadian Christmas Children & Family Films” or “Army Dramas,” all you have to do is go to and browse through the company’s long list of categories. Each one has a number. Not an easy number to remember, like, say, 78. More like: 75804 (Vampire Horror Movies) or 9916 (Romantic Independent Movies). Once you have the number, you can enter it into the search bar on Netflix, or just click on it, or swap it in for the xx in this link:

    See? Easy and intuitive!

    We have to give Netflix credit for taking the time to think of all of these categories. Dreaming up micro genres and serving them up to you in a personalized fashion is a core strand of Netflix’s DNA and is what has made the company unique from day one. (If you want to read more on the micro-genre creation process, read this.)

    But having gone to all that effort, especially for a company that prides itself on being user-friendly, it seems counterintuitive to make it so difficult to search through those categories. Why not just put a button on the home page that links you to the codes? Why even have codes in the first place?

    The company presumably feels that the genres provided on the home page (Trending Now, Gritty TV Dramas, Dark TV Shows) are enough to keep people happily scrolling. The setup also allows Netflix to showcase its original content—what it’s most interested in getting you to watch—and put it in front of you the minute you click on the app. Once you click over to the code tiles, it’s no longer clear what is and is not a Netflix production.

    And then there’s the fun, cookie-like element to having to track down what you’re looking for on a separate web page, and then try to remember an arcane code.

    Whatever its motivation, in keeping with Netflix’s tight-lipped culture, the company is not telling.

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    If you ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the fact that your iPhone may have 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, Google has a potential solution you’ll love: radar-based motion sensors that could make touch screens obsolete.

    Project Soli, which was created by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, or ATAP, is a radar that is small enough to fit into a 1.5-inch smartwatch, and can be controlled by hand gestures alone, with no need to lay a finger on that bacteria-covered touch screen. (Yes, just like in Minority Report.) Now, Project Soli has just won a waiver from the FCC to kick its Soli Project up a notch, operating at higher power levels than currently allowed, and even be used on planes because the device poses “minimal potential of causing harmful interference to other spectrum users.” Reuters reports that the FCC said the decision “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology.”

    The news has been a long time coming for the initiative began in 2015, led by legendary interaction designer Ivan Poupyrev. In addition to being able to recognize gestures, when researchers at St. Andrews got their hands on a Soli AlphaKit, they created a new project called RadarCat that recognizes not only gestures, but specific objects and materials including apples, oranges, and air.

    The FCC’s approval comes after Facebook raised concerns that Soli’s radar would interfere with existing technologies, per Reuters. The two companies came to an agreement in September and now Project Soli is ready for takeoff.

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    Tesla is cutting its car prices in the United States by $2,000, but unfortunately, customers won’t see much of a difference in their wallets.

    The company is lowering its prices to offset the loss of a federal tax credit, given to people who help the planet by buying electric vehicles. The federal government only offers the tax credit to companies that have sold fewer than 200,000 plug-in vehicles. In July, Tesla passed that mark and triggered a phase-out of the tax credit, when, according to CNN, it became the first carmaker in the United States to sell more than 200,000 plug-in vehicles.

    Before January 1, Tesla buyers were entitled to a tax credit of $7,500. Now, Tesla buyers only get half that credit, or $3,750, for the next six months, before it falls to $1,875 in July. Come 2020, the tax credit disappears entirely (although no one will care since two-thirds of the world’s wild animals are on track to disappear by 2020, too).

    To lure would-be Tesla owners, the company announced that it is lowering its prices. However, the $2,000 price cut doesn’t come close to matching the discount associated with the $7,500 tax credit and appears to have spooked investors, with Bloomberg reporting a nearly 10% fall in stock price in the wake of the announcement and “fourth-quarter deliveries that fell just short of analysts’ estimates.”

    Even with the price cut, absent the federal tax credit, Tesla customers may simply wait until the long-promised $35,000 Tesla Model 3 is finally on the market. CEO Elon Musk said in an interview on 60 Minutes that he expects the lower-priced Tesla model to be available in five to six months.

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    Around this time of year, you’re likely putting the finishing touches on the usual list of New Year’s resolutions you’ve decided to dust off again. Losing weight, less procrastinating, quitting smoking (or vaping)–you know, the standards. While you’re deciding, what if you also gave some serious consideration to one of the most important relationships in your life–the relationship you have with the city you live in?

    We contribute every day to the life of cities with our choices (Vancouver). [Photo: courtesy of the author]
    Our cities are humanity’s biggest and most important collective effort, the massive, marvelously complex result of all of our great choices, debatable decisions, and really bad mistakes. They’re also the key to saving us from climate change, they drive our national economies, they support (or hinder) our personal health, and much more. So what if we picked some New Year’s resolutions that could improve our individual and family lives, hopefully making us happier, healthier, and more successful, while also improving our cities and communities for everyone?

    Here are 25 ways that your choices can translate into better cities. Share them, and your own, using #ResolutionsForMyCity!

    1. Vote in municipal elections. Too many of us don’t vote at the government level that most affects our actual lives on a daily basis.

    2. Speak at City Hall in support of something good for your community and city, rather than just going to oppose things. And before you oppose something (such as well-designed density, new housing choices, or affordable housing), think carefully about who it’s meant to help, and put yourself in their place.

    3. Choose different ways to get around your city. Walk, bike, skateboard, scooter, take public transit, as many times a week as you can. Focus especially on those short trips–for example, buy a shopping trolley and walk to the grocery store if possible. Lobby your leaders for improvements to support more choices, like better infrastructure and slower speed limits.

    4. If you’ve never ridden a bike for transportation (as opposed to recreation)–and especially if you oppose safe bike lanes–spend a week riding a bike to work and other places you’d normally drive to. On one of those days, take your kids with you. Think about how you felt on every part of the trip.

    5. Walk, bike, or use transit to take your kids to school, and teach them to do so on their own as soon as they’re able. Its safer, healthier, and developmentally better for them, and everyone else, than it is to drive them.

    6. Take public transit whenever you can, and while you’re at it, look around at and engage with the real, honest humanity on display that you’re usually blind to when you’re behind the windshield. See my hashtag #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit.

    7. When you’re supporting your kid’s interests, chose options that are in your neighborhood or are otherwise “local,” rather than sentencing you and your kids (and everyone else) to have to drive all over the city or region.

    It’s hard make cities better for people when we keep building cities for cars and traffic (Dubai). [Photo: courtesy of the author]
    8. Before you indulge the urge to complain about “too much traffic” or “not enough parking,” learn all you can about induced demand or the law of congestion, and practice repeating to yourself the truth that “I’m not stuck in traffic, I am traffic.”

    9. Take every opportunity you can to participate in civic life. Linger in and enjoy good parks, places, and streets every day, not just during special events. Your very presence and engagement adds life, vitality, and safety to a place, and helps them be more enjoyable for everyone.

    We add life to great places whenever we choose to linger, watch, and be watched (London). [Photo: courtesy of the author]
    10. Tell your elected leaders that you insist on real action on homelessness, starting with actual homes and supportive services, whether you can see its effects in your neighborhood yet or not. Remember that this is about human values, not property values. Remind them that providing homes for the homeless actually saves us all public money. See my hashtag #CityMakingMath.

    11. Do everything you can to ensure that immigrants, and especially refugees, feel welcomed, supported, and valued in your community. Your family was very likely at some point in their shoes, and they will make your city better.

    12. Open your eyes to whether your city is truly accessible for everyone–every curb cut or lack thereof–for the disabled, people of all ages, and for every parent with a stroller. Find ways to travel a mile in their shoes or chairs, and listen to them. Then amplify their voices in calling for improvements.

    It doesn’t take much to design local stores and cafes in a street-friendly way. It’s human nature to people watch on a great street. (Utrecht). [Photo: courtesy of the author]
    13. Support local arts and culture with your feet and dollars every day, so you won’t have to fight to save them when they’re under threat of closure. Support local stores and services, especially those like bookstores and theaters that not only support the local economy more than chains, but also contribute to local culture and character. Support stores, cafes, and other businesses that choose designs that strengthen the sidewalk and street, and contribute to the neighborhood. See my hashtag #StickyStreets.

    14. Support your local and downtown public libraries. They aren’t just for books, they are real civic places where public life and community building happen.

    15. Support your local public/farmers’ markets (and Christmas market). If you don’t have public markets, lobby for them, and help get one started.

    16. Champion “parklets” in front of your favorite stores or cafés/restaurants, converting a parking space to a people place. Tell every shopkeeper you can about the idea. And tell City Hall to make it easy to do.

    17. Rethink whether you really need the size of house you think you need. And all the stuff you think you need to fill it. Buy less stuff. Especially big stuff with way too much packaging.

    18: Get a car-share membership instead of a car. If your city doesn’t have car share yet, lobby for it as much as you can. It will need changes at City Hall.

    19: Plant a tree in your front yard, and fight for street trees on your street, in your neighborhood, and across your city. Thereareliterallydozensofways they make life better in cities. See my hashtag #StreetsAreBetterWithTrees.

    Street and yard trees are one of the best multi-faceted investments we can make in cities (Vancouver). [Photo: courtesy of the author]
    20. Find ways to love and support your favorite historical buildings before they are threatened with demolition. They’re a lot easier to save if they’re used and appreciated every day.

    21. Get involved with (or create) community and advocacy organizations, especially ones that are for things, not just against things.

    22. When it’s budget time at City Hall, pay really close attention. It’s where the truth of your city’s aspirations is revealed. Insist that your political leaders show in detail how their spending decisions actually match the city vision they’ve approved in their plans.

    23. Start reading (or read more of) the many great books on smart city making and community building out there, not as a professional, but as an engaged citizen. See my hashtag #UrbanismBookClub.

    24. Open your eyes to the beauty in the everyday details and occurrences in your city–in the architecture, design, nature, civic life, and people. Really look around. Once your eyes are opened, you won’t be able to close them again.

    New York’s High Line may now be a magnetic mecca for people, investment, and architecture, but it started as a passion of two citizens. [Photo: courtesy of the author]
    25. When you see an opportunity, champion something really big and remarkable in your city, and make it happen. Remember, New York’s outstanding High Line, one of my favorite recently created public places in the world, was started and led by two so-called “ordinary citizens” who chose to do something extraordinary.

    You don’t have to resolve to do all 25 of these in order to have a profoundly positive impact on both your life, and the collective life of your city. But I hope you’ll jump in with both feet on a few. Both you and your city will be much better for it.

    Brent Toderian is a global thought leader on cities, an acclaimed city planner and urbanist with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS advising cities and progressive developers all over the world, and the former chief city planner for Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @BrentToderian.

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    This is pretty far out.

    NASA just released the first clear images of Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever explored by a human spacecraft, which is now traveling in the far-off reaches of the Kuiper Belt. Ultima Thule is what NASA describes as a “contact binary,” meaning it is made up of two previously separate objects that are now bound together as one. (Kind of romantic, really.) In a clip shared on Twitter from NASA TV, Ultima Thule–which stretches about 20 miles–looks a bit like a half-melted snowman, although that’s admittedly a crude description, as NASA scientists are still analyzing data to determine its properties.

    The images come courtesy of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft and its New Year’s Day flyby. The craft is equipped with a high-res “long-range reconnaissance imager,” which offered the best indication yet of Ultima Thule’s size and shape.

    In addition to the clip, NASA also shared an artist’s rendering, along with a theory about how Ultima Thule could have formed over time, beginning with a rotating cloud of icy bodies. And the metaphors write themselves!

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    Apple halted after-hours trading of its shares briefly on Wednesday afternoon to announce to shareholders that it had a worse-than-expected holiday quarter.

    In a letter to investors, the company said it revised down its revenue for the quarter to $84 billion from the range of $89 billion to $93 billion it had provided on November 1. The company posted revenue of $88.3 billion for the 2017 holiday quarter.

    All other guidance metrics–gross margin, operating expenses, other income, and expense, and tax rate–remained generally unchanged, Apple said.

    Apple blamed slow iPhone sales–especially in China–as well as fewer-than-expected iPhone upgrades for the shortfall.

    “While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the letter. “In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad.”

    Cook says China’s economy began to slow in the second half of 2018, with the Chinese government reporting GDP growth during the September quarter as the lowest seen in 25 years. “We believe the economic environment in China has been further impacted by rising trade tensions with the United States,” Cook adds.

    The fact that Apple took the dramatic step of halting trading is an indication that the company was taken by surprise by the iPhone sales shortfall. It had, after all, predicted a record holiday quarter. But let’s add some perspective here, courtesy of Jason Snell over at Six Colors:

    “To be clear, that’ll still be the second largest Apple quarter ever,” Snell tweets. “Apple is an enormous revenue and profit generator, and will remain so for years to come.”

    And there was some very good non-iPhone news in Cook’s letter. Apple said it has put more than 100 million new Apple devices into service over the past year. And all of those devices can be used to buy Apple services, which many see as the company’s main revenue driver in the future. To wit, sales of services (like Apple Music and iCloud) generated more than $10.8 billion in revenue during the quarter, Apple said, growing to a new quarterly record in every geographic segment.

    In addition, the holiday quarter was big for Apple’s wearables business. The company said wearables sales grew by almost 50% over last year’s holiday quarter, the Apple Watch and AirPods being especially popular this year.

    Moor Insights & Strategy principal analyst Patrick Moorhead, for one, wasn’t surprised by today’s guide-down. “Suppliers had been telegraphing the issue for a few months . . . iPhone units are likely down and I believe prices on the more premium, higher priced phones are down due to holiday discounting,” Moor writes in a note to Fast Company. “The company is growing its services and ‘other’ categories, just not enough to drive overall revenue growth.”

    Moor adds that investors are waiting for Apple to demonstrate a path back to double-digit growth. Until they see that, the Apple stock price may remain depressed.

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    In the last two decades or so, we’ve gone from watching television mostly on a predetermined live schedule to streaming TV directly onto our devices and watching it whenever and wherever we want. But let’s be honest, for all the advances in video-delivery technology over the years, we still spend way too much time sitting around and trying to decide what to watch.

    Content discovery on television is mostly a terrible experience, a wasteland of irrelevant recommendations, outdated channel menus, and mindless trial and error. And, yes, I’m including Netflix’s supposedly sophisticated algorithms in this mix, although I’m certainly not the first person to notice the streaming company’s tendency to steer viewers toward mediocre content.

    So what’s to be done? Gracenote, the media metadata provider scooped up by Nielsen in 2017, has what it hopes will be the next generation in content discovery. The company today announced the launch of a new product called Gracenote Video Descriptors, which it says will offer deeper engagement metrics to pay-TV providers, streaming services, and connected device makers, thereby allowing them to produce better content-discovery mechanisms.

    The new service–the first of Gracenote’s Advanced Discovery suite of products–uses hyper-detailed metadata about entertainment content, including descriptors about a show’s mood, theme, characters, and scenarios. For viewers, that means more “contextually relevant” discovery experiences, Gracenote says, with more personalized suggestions based on past viewing behavior.

    As an example, Gracenote used HBO’s Game of Thrones, for which Video Descriptors pinpoints thematic elements like “greed” and “betrayal,” scenarios like “power struggle” and “manipulation,” and moods like “dark” and “gripping.” Understanding such elements will allow the service to deliver more nuanced recommendations, Gracenote says.

    [Photo: courtesy of Nielsen]
    Whether any of this will actually make content discovery better is anyone’s guess. One could argue that greed and betrayal are pretty broad themes that apply to almost anything. Gracenote says it will demo the new tech at CES in Las Vegas next week, so we’ll know more then.

    It’s also unclear who will initially benefit from the offering. Nielsen declined to say which companies have signed on to use Video Descriptors, although Simon Adams, Gracenote’s chief product officer, promised that big-name brands are on board.

    “While we cannot divulge specific customer names because their products and features have not yet launched, we can say that a number of major media companies have licensed Gracenote Video Descriptors,” Adams said in a statement to Fast Company. “Critical to these customers was the fact that the data solution was developed using a balance of expert human editors and advanced technology.”

    For now, I remain skeptical but ever hopeful.

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    With the holidays over, many companies are restarting hiring efforts that may have stalled at the end of last year. But that doesn’t mean hiring will look like it did in 2018. As CareerBuilder CEO Irina Novoselsky explains, recruitment trends are impacted by many factors–from unemployment rates to technological innovation and beyond.

    The unemployment rate is going down, allowing job seekers to get behind the wheel and to be picky about their opportunities. In turn, this results in higher competition and a longer process to fill a cubicle seat. Novoselsky adds that a growing digital and remote working landscape continues to redefine the professional sphere. Generations that adopt the gig economy mindset and are able to take their job anywhere they please force businesses to think differently about employees, contractors, and what success looks like. As we head into a new year, leading recruitment executives predict hiring trends to prepare and plan for:

    Companies will utilize technology to streamline the interview process

    Anyone with access to a computer can technically apply for any job out there–regardless of whether they are qualified or not. In response to this free-for-all, many recruitment firms and databases have created ways for employers to streamline their hiring process using technology to field applications. The CEO and founder of ABS Staffing Solutions, Ariel Schur, explains that rather than wasting anyone’s time with several in-person meetings, online features will allow hiring managers to send out personality, writing, or functional tests an interested professional must complete before moving forward. This saves headache–and heartache–on both sides of the process. “There is nothing more frustrating than falling in love with a candidate you believe would be the perfect fit only to discover that they are a terrible writer during the final hiring process,” she adds. In addition to these virtual quizzes or run-throughs, Schur also predicts most companies will conduct several rounds of Skype interviews before inviting candidates into the office, to save on commuting time and cost.

    Social recruiting will become more prevalent

    Though LinkedIn is a no-brainer tool for seeking applicants, Schur explains there are several untapped platforms that most companies haven’t yet considered. From Twitter to Instagram, social postings can go beyond an update, and can offer more to lure in the right candidate or find the ideal job. “Both employees and employers can utilize these platforms to build relationships, vet opportunities, and make employment decisions,” she says. This might look like running social ads for a position you’re hoping to fill, or reaching out to influencers in various industries to see if they are open to contract work. No matter how you use it, there are thousands of connections you likely already have that you aren’t considered. “Recruitment marketing is the process of trying to attract new individuals for organizations using different methods and to think outside of the box. Companies will be smarter with how they utilize their social sites to attract candidates,” she continues. “They’ll want to be more competitive and sexier and tap into what people want.”

    Competition will be fierce

    Thanks to low unemployment, higher productivity, and a growing consumer confidence, Novoselsky predicts strong job growth will extend throughout 2019, not only for full-time professionals but for temporary workers, too. Because there will be more jobs created, naturally, industries will become more competitive, and she says employers will need to respond with an aggressive approach to financial compensation, cultural perks, and other incentives. Because of this, she thinks more companies will increase their focus on diversity to attract an even wider pool of applicants, and perhaps be open to more modern ways of working. This might include remote work, consultants, and other novel ways of looking at what it means to be a professional.

    Technology will continue to be indisputable

    Though Novoselsky does predict STEM-related occupations will dominate fast-growing occupations, with a big quest for software and app developers, as well as IT specialists, technology isn’t only in these fields. In fact, she explains, outside of traditional tech, jobs like registered nurses, postsecondary teachers, accountants and auditors will increase in demand, and people in these roles will encounter tech more regularly during their day-to-day tasks. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 69% of employers said every job is essentially a “tech job” because some part of the responsibilities is dependent on their ability utilize various technologies. “This shift will push companies to create upskilling and reskilling opportunities for current employees to make sure that they remain competitive, and will require job seekers to pursue skills and educational opportunities to meet growing demand for high-wage jobs that involve tech,” she explains.

    Candidates will be hired on potential career trajectory–not their degree

    As new generations of entry-level-age workers are emerging without a degree, companies are pushed to reconsider the importance of an expensive diploma. Novoselsky believes that in the coming months, candidates will be selected based on their potential career trajectory and not necessarily what they did or didn’t achieve educationally. CareerBuilder actually doesn’t require a degree for its openings because they don’t want to lose out on great talent who didn’t decide to take the traditional route. “Employers will invest more in providing competency-based training to develop potential talent and have them grow with the company, offering upskilling opportunities almost immediately upon a candidate’s hire,” she predicts.

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    Does anyone really need throw pillows and headboards to set the mood for video sex? That’s the question I found myself asking after looking at the fascinating work of New York-born and Mexico- and Colombia-based photographer Kurt Hollander, who documents the sets where webcam performers work in his series, Erotic Videochat Studios.

    Though some sets are specific, what really surprises me about Hollander’s photos is the sheer normalcy of many of the bedrooms, which look like they were outfitted by a suburban furniture mega-store. They’re full of deliberate details: fake flowers arranged in baskets, white and gold leaf sculpted headboards, polyester pillows. More than “camming” sets, they look like photos lifted from a “cozy, classic apartment” entry on AirBnB.

    [Photo: Kurt Hollander]

    The bedroom sets are located in the city of Cali, Colombia–the world’s second largest provider of these video services. Hollander says via email that he went first went to Cali in 2013 to take photographs of a huge thematic love motel. “I lived in the motel for two weeks and spent most of the time taking portraits of the cement installations, paintings, and objects that adorned the 150 theme rooms couples would rent for up to two hours of pure pleasure,” he explains. “The disconnect between the brightly colored folk-art environments and the wild sex clients would have all around the room added a sense of the surreal to the photographs.” His book of the photographs, The Joyous Life (Popular Culture and Sex in Cali), is currently awaiting a publisher.

    Hollander has documented many other aspects of sex culture in the city, including massage parlors, men’s clubs, spas, porn cinemas, swingers’ clubs, gang bang parties, and brothels, but he says the most consistently surreal environments were those of erotic video chat studios, which have dozens of rooms equipped with a computer and camera that transmit streaming videos of models 24 hours a day, all located inside of large, nondescript buildings in residential and commercial neighborhoods.

    The bedroom sets inside these buildings embody the bland sameness of middle-class master bedrooms found in suburban homes and hotels all over the world, seemingly in contrast to their role as the background of sex videos that are broadcast to millions. But perhaps that’s the entire point of such a deliberate setup: to make it seem like viewers are peeking between the blinds of the house next door and watching everything that goes on there.

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    The landscape of New York’s Fifth Avenue is changing, with iconic American brands like Lord & Taylor, FAO Schwarz, and Gap shuttering their large, flagship stores. But it’s not all bad news. In their wake, newer, hipper brands are coming in.

    Take Lord & Taylor, for instance. The department store has been a fixture on Fifth Avenue for 104 years, its windows full of glamorous mannequins in ball gowns. The store officially closed its doors for the last time this week. But in its place, WeWork is moving in, converting the sales floors into trendy offices for freelancers, startups, and hip companies. WeWork reportedly paid $850 million to acquire Lord & Taylor’s building.

    Across the street, luxury marijuana dispensary MedMen has moved in. The new location has been described at the Apple Store for weed, and features elegant wood paneling and wood tables with iPads where you can select the tinctures and vaporizer pens you want to try.

    Commercial rentals on Fifth Avenue cost between $500 and $1,000 per square foot, which makes it among the most expensive real estate in the world. This would make MedMen’s 2,000-square-foot store worth between $1 million and $2 million a month.

    The changing face of Fifth Avenue is a sign of how retail is being transformed. Many older retailers have failed to keep up with the needs and desires of new consumers. With online shopping, consumers don’t need to go to stores to make a purchase. Newer startups realize this, which is why they focused on wooing customers into stores with fun experiences and beautiful design. At the MedMen store, for instance, shop assistants are on hand to offer you champagne and avocado toast in case you get the munchies.

    E-commerce has also made enormous stores unnecessary, since many customers will make their final purchases online, meaning retailers don’t need to waste precious retail space storing inventory. Lord & Taylor’s gargantuan building is a relic of a previous age of retail. It makes sense that it is more valuable as a coworking space where a new generation of entrepreneurs can rent a table, and hatch up creative new ideas to ensure the future of retail remains bright.

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    The New Year is here, and you’ve probably already resolved to exercise more and cut down on the binge-watching TV as well as made plans to be a more accomplished professional. If so, communication skills need to be part of that 2019 plan. They are a must-have for workers at all levels in any industry to persuade and inspire others. Happily, these are easy skills to learn, even though nobody is a born public speaker.

    Consider these five ways to be more effective in your personal presentation and public speaking resolutions for 2019.

    1. In 2019, I will be a more selfless presenter

    Many presenters focus on what matters to them, not the audience, because it requires more thought and effort to consider the audience and their needs. Don’t make that mistake. Be a selfless presenter. It may take more time and effort to think about what matters to the audience and create presentations that speak to them and their needs, but you’ll see the payoff when your messages resonate with the audience. Understand your audience, and put extra time and effort into creating the best content for them.

    2. In 2019, I will be more visual

    An evocative image or photo is much more powerful than words, as we remember images much better than text or data. Your goal is to make each of your presentation slides be like a billboard–visual, not too wordy, and something that can be understood in under 10 seconds. Cut down on the amount of text on each slide, and say it with an evocative photo or intriguing chart instead.

    3. In 2019, I will choose my words carefully

    It’s not just a matter of using fewer words in your PowerPoint slides or in your speeches, what you say also matters. You may have heard the widely shared myth that only 7% of communication comes from words, but that is simply not true. The words you use are powerfully important, so choose words that will pack a punch. Especially if you need a boost to your creativity, as limits force you to think carefully about each word and the message that it will send. Use verbs, stick with active rather than passive voice, and use positive language. Edit down, and make sure each slide has one clear message that the words you choose will support.

    4. In 2019, I will tell more stories

    Storytelling is an incredibly powerful way to make your presentations more effective, and you’re already good at it. All humans are natural storytellers. We’ve been sitting around campfires telling stories for 50,000 years. Our brains are wired to respond positively to stories; they make us empathize with the speaker, build trust, and we remember stories even better than visuals. Marketers know this, Hollywood knows this, and the best speakers know this. Telling stories will make you a more confident speaker. In 2019, tell more stories about your business, your customers, your colleagues, or yourself.

    5. In 2019, I will practice, practice, and then practice some more

    The first time you practice your presentation should not be the day the audience sees it. You should have practiced and rehearsed it many times before going live for the first time. You will make mistakes, so why not make those mistakes before the big show, in a safe environment? If you feel nervous about your talk, good preparation is one of the many things you can do to boost your confidence. It’s a win for you and the audience.

    Now, stand up, take a deep breath, and recite these five resolutions aloud. Then, stick to them throughout 2019. They will make you a more skilled and confident presenter and public speaker. And when you see your audience smiling and engaging more, you’ll feel more confident and that will make you an even better speaker.

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