Tipping Is Coming to Uber, and It’s Going to Be Awkward

Drivers can now ask for tips, says Joshua Brustein at Bloomberg:

As part of the settlement with drivers in California and Massachusetts, Uber has agreed to notify customers more clearly that tips are not included in fares and give tacit approval for optional gratuity. Drivers can now solicit cash tips by asking passengers or posting signs in their vehicles.

A few weeks ago while Ubering around on a business trip I asked other Uber users, and one driver who’s a friend, whether they tipped, or in the case of the driver-friend, expected tips. About a third of the people said yes, most said no. But the third saying yes was enough for me to offer a tip on my next Uber ride (which happened to be the last one I’ve done since). The driver seemed confused a moment, obviously completely not expecting a tip.

A couple of people reacting to this article on social media said they hate the idea of tipping Uber drivers. The entire appeal, they said, was to just get out of the car and go and not deal with payment. For me, pulling a couple of singles out of my wallet and tucking it into my shirt pocket is no big deal. The inconvenience of payment isn’t the transaction itself, it’s the calculating tips, waiting for change or – more frequently – handing over the credit card, waiting for it to be swiped, and signing. Many cabs still have those old impression-style credit mechanical card readers, which further delays my departure. Absent all that inconvenience, I’m happy to give the drivers a couple of bucks, because I’m guessing their margins are slim. Many of them are actually losing money by working – not making enough by driving to pay for wear-and-tear on the car and other costs.

So I’m happy to tip. But I’d really rather the US goes the way of Europe, and eliminate tipping entirely. I never know when to tip, or how much. It’s awkward and unfair. Everybody should just make a good wage.

Pearl Mackie Is The Doctor’s New Companion

She’s got a very light acting resume, but she fulfills the basic requirements for a companion: Female, human, incomprehensible English accent, and wears casual clothes, including tennis shoes so she can RUN!

Andrew Liptak on iO9 has the lowdown on Doctor Who’s new Companion. (which actually isn’t much).

Doctor Who seems to have gone in a completely different direction than with Clara, while still keeping within the parameters of young, female, spunky, middle- or lower-class and British.

The hyper-gendering of women in Silicon Valley is predictable and awful

Women in tech are always female-first. No matter where they go, they’re the face of women in tech, even where they don’t want to be, writes Nellie Bowles at The Guardian:

The Silicon Valley season premiere panel was eight men and one woman, and anyone could predict what would happen.

The interviewer onstage asked each man questions about the popular HBO show satirizing Silicon Valley’s tech boom. He asked the creator, Mike Judge, what inspired the show; asked a main character whether he knew it would be such a hit; asked an actor how much his comedic riffs got into the final cut. And then he turned to the one woman on stage, Amanda Crew:

“So Amanda, what is it like – this show is obviously a lot of guys – what’s your experience as an actress in this type of situation and also representing the females of Silicon Valley here?”

There it is.

I’ve never felt more gendered than since I started covering tech. I certainly like being a woman, but I wouldn’t consider it my primary identifier or interest. In Silicon Valley, one does not have that luxury. A woman in Silicon Valley, even one who’s just visiting for the night, is very specifically female – representative of women and there to talk about women. It’s by dint of scarcity (how odd to find her there!) but it’s deeper than that.

Monica Rogati, a data scientist, coined something she called the Bechdel test for tech conferences. It is a measure of whether women are truly being represented at an event. The requirements: 1) two women speaking 2) on the same panel 3) not about women in tech.

After covering tech for five years, I think I’ve seen it maybe twice. More typical is something akin to the upcoming Paypal panel called “Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace”, which boasts a grand total of four men and zero women.


Animal house

The University of Virginia 200 years ago was seen as a “playground for the rich and violent” [Backstory podcast]

Thomas Jefferson wanted to the university to be an entirely secular institution, without any religious component, but ironically it’s only during the 19th Century American religious Great Awakening that college students got serious.

Over the course of American history, college has gone from ecclesiastical training for ministers to vocational school.


Two accountants believe they’ve cracked a 35-year-old murder

The Criminal podcast:

Since 1965, there’s been an unsolved murder in Houston, Texas. The main suspect managed to disappear and police were never able to find him. The case is still considered open. In 1997, a couple of accountants decided to look into the murders, and were able to uncover evidence that the police missed. They think they’ve solved the mystery.

Learn more about Hugh and Martha’s book: The Ice Box Murders.

Hugh and Martha got married. Their love of sleuthing brought them together.

On the road

“I have one bag of clothes, one backpack with a computer, iPad, and phone. I have zero other possessions.”

James Altucher describes how minimalism brought him “freedom and joy.” On Boing Boing:

I have one bag of clothes, one backpack with a computer, iPad, and phone. I have zero other possessions.

Today I have no address. At this exact moment I am sitting in a restaurant and there’s no place for me to go to lie down.

By tonight I will find a place to lie down. Will that be my address? Probably not.

Am I minimalist? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t like that word. I live the way I like to live no matter what label it has.

At any moment, you are exactly where you want to be, for better or worse.

A lot of people get minimalism confused.

It’s not necessarily a good way to live. Or a free way to live for many people. It’s just the way I like to live.

Altucher is a hedge fund manager. Presumably one of the possessions he carries in that one bag is a financial instrument that will allow him to bed down for the night in any of the most luxurious hotels in the world. I was going to speculate he has an American Express Black Card. But he says he has no credit cards. Still, lots of money is required to make the minimalist lifestyle comfortable.

If he wasn’t rich, he’d just be homeless.

But I’m not trying to be dismissive. There’s something appealing about Altucher’s lifestyle. And it’s always worthwhile to be conscious of which of our possessions enrich our lives, and which are just anchors weighing us down.

I’m OK going to a nudist restaurant so long as I can keep my cell phone

Restaurateur Seb Lyall is opening Bunyadi, a clothes-optional restaurant, in June. The waitlist is 16,000 names, says Peter Holley at the Washington Post.

The concept comes from Lollipop, a company behind several other unconventional dining experiences, such as drinking a smoothie with an owl and ABQ, a “Breaking Bad”-themed cocktail bar that invites guests to manufacture their own drinks in an RV using raw ingredients.


They’re wired that way

Why teen-agers act like teen-agers

It’s how their brains are wired – the centers that control evaluating consequences and impulse control aren’t fully wired up yet, making teens more rash, prone to risk-taking behavior, and novelty-seeking.

Fresh Air:

Teens can’t control impulses and make rapid, smart decisions like adults can — but why?

Research into how the human brain develops helps explain. In a teenager, the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls decision-making, is built but not fully insulated — so signals move slowly.

“Teenagers are not as readily able to access their frontal lobe to say, ‘Oh, I better not do this,’ ” Dr. Frances Jensen tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.

Jensen, who’s a neuroscientist and was a single mother of two boys who are now in their 20s, wrote The Teenage Brain to explore the science of how the brain grows — and why teenagers can be especially impulsive, moody and not very good at responsible decision-making.

Jensen, who is 58 years old, also describes the changes she observes in her own brain as she gets older. She says she needs sleep more and has more difficulty multitasking.

I’ve observed both of those things in myself. I don’t seem to need more sleep, but I have less tolerance for being sleep-deprived. However, I honestly don’t know whether that’s a result of aging, or whether I was previously just kidding myself about how productive I could be when short on sleep.

Likewise for multitasking – am I getting less capable of multitasking, or has it always been bad and I’m aware of it more now?

She says she writes more notes to herself now – definitely true for me – and finds herself more drawn to writing by hand. That last point is definitely not true for me. I do everything on the computer, phone, or iPad.

What Would a World Without Internet Look Like?

Blake Snow at the Atlantic tries to imagine a world where the Internet never happened:

Not long ago, browsing the Internet, I happened to stumble on a list titled, “The Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time, According to the Internet.”  Like most lists of its kind, it was subjective and far from definitive, but still, it represented an interesting challenge. As someone who reads for pleasure as much as for job security, I decided to finish as many of the titles as I could handle.

After completing over a dozen (and taking in many of the film adaptations) the following occurred to me: Not one of these acclaimed futuristic stories—at least none of the many I was exposed to—took place in a world with any version of the Internet. All instances of published media, daily communication, romance—all offline.

In part, this has to do with the constraints of narrative writing, explains the technology writer Clive Thompson. “A lot of science fiction was primarily focused on moving people and things around in exciting ways,” he says. “These forward-thinkers were using flashy visuals to hook their readers, while understandably overlooking non-sexy things such as inaudible conversations.”

And inaudible conversations are the bread and butter of the world wide web. As Jon Stewart once put it, the Internet today “is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.”

But my experience led me to an interesting thought experiment: How might we live without the world’s largest note exchange? Or, in other words, what would the world be like today if the Internet ceased to exist?

Snow focuses on the conversational elements of the Internet – social media, email, and messaging – to the exclusion of information-gathering and business. To tell the truth, the paragraphs I quoted are the best parts of the article. The rest makes points we’ve seen elsewhere: The Internet lets us work more flexibly, but we put in longer hours. And it makes us less empathetic.

For me, life without the Internet is like life without electricity. I could do it, but it would be hard. That’s extraordinary, considering I was past 30 before the Internet went mainstream.

Three or four years ago I decided to take an Internet break while on vacation, but that didn’t last any longer than the time it took to think it through, because I realized I rely on the Internet to shop, get news, and communicate. Instead, I decided to take a break from social media. Which was actually nice and I’ll have to try that again sometime. Sometime.