The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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1. Mother’s Mind

Pam Belluck | The New York Times | June 16, 2014 | 22 minutes (5,482 words)

A look at new findings on postpartum depression and maternal mental illness:

In New York, State Senator Liz Krueger has introduced a bill to encourage screening and treatment, a proposal that will most likely pass and be approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who vetoed a 2013 bill on technical grounds but encouraged the revised legislation.

Jeanne Marie Johnson, in Oregon, may have benefited from state laws encouraging awareness of postpartum mental illness. At her daughter, Pearl’s, two-week pediatric checkup, Ms. Johnson received a questionnaire. Her answers raised red flags and were forwarded to her midwife and a social worker. Ms. Johnson also called a number for a hotline the hospital gave her after a panic attack.

She saw a social worker, but resisted taking medication for months. Afraid to be alone with Pearl, she would insist her mother come over when her husband was out. “I called the doctor hotline constantly,” with nonexistent concerns, “because if I was talking on the phone I wouldn’t do anything harmful.”

Don’t miss Part II of this series.

 

2. The Disruption Machine

Jill Lepore | New Yorker | June 18, 2014 | 24 minutes (6,015 words)

Jill Lepore’s critical look at the language of innovation in tech:

Clay Christensen has compared the theory of disruptive innovation to a theory of nature: the theory of evolution. But among the many differences between disruption and evolution is that the advocates of disruption have an affinity for circular arguments. If an established company doesn’t disrupt, it will fail, and if it fails it must be because it didn’t disrupt. When a startup fails, that’s a success, since epidemic failure is a hallmark of disruptive innovation. (“Stop being afraid of failure and start embracing it,” the organizers of FailCon, an annual conference, implore, suggesting that, in the era of disruption, innovators face unprecedented challenges. For instance: maybe you made the wrong hires?) When an established company succeeds, that’s only because it hasn’t yet failed. And, when any of these things happen, all of them are only further evidence of disruption.

 

3. How To Catch A Chess Cheater: Ken Regan Finds Moves Out Of Mind

Howard Goldowsky | Chess Life | June 1, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,381)

Ken Regan was a chess prodigy who earned a master title at 13 and is currently an engineering professor at the University of Buffalo. He’s developing a program that would detect cheating in chess, which has become more rampant in a world where button-sized wireless devices have made it easier to take down chess champions:

Regan is a devoted Christian. His faith has inspired in him a moral and social responsibility to fight cheating in the chess world, a responsibility that has become his calling. As an international master and self-described 2600-level computer science professor with a background in complexity theory—he holds two degrees in mathematics, a bachelor’s from Princeton and a doctorate from Oxford—he also happens to be one of only a few people in the world with an ability to commit to such a calling. “Ken Regan is one of two or three people in the world who have the quantitative background, chess expertise, and comput­er skills necessary to develop anti-cheating algorithms likely to work,” says Mark Glickman, a statistics professor at Boston University and chairman of the USCF ratings committee. Every time Regan starts an instance of his anti-cheating code he does not merely run a piece of software—he invokes it. The dual meaning of “invoke” conveys Regan’s inspired relationship to the anti-cheating work that he does.

 

4. Is Coding the New Literacy?

Tasneem Raja | Mother Jones | June 19, 2014 | 26 minutes (6,630 words)

An argument for rethinking how we teach the basics of computer science to everyone:

“Code literate.” Sounds nice, but what does it mean? And where does literacy end and fluency begin? The best way to think about that is to look to the history of literacy itself.

Reading and writing have become what researchers have called “interiorized” or “infrastructural,” a technology baked so deeply into everyday human life that we’re never surprised to encounter it. It’s the main medium through which we connect, via not only books and papers, but text messages and the voting booth, medical forms and shopping sites. If a child makes it to adulthood without being able to read or write, we call that a societal failure.

 

5. The Inside Story Of How Greenpeace Built A Corporate Spanking Machine To Turn The Fortune 500 Into Climate Heroes

Aaron Gell | Business Insider | June 4, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,570 words)

How a “bunch of commies” are forcing the world’s biggest corporations to stop destroying rain forests, overfishing, and burning fossil fuels:

Though they too wore business suits and what looked like P&G employee badges, they didn’t work for the consumer-goods giant. They were from Greenpeace, and they’d come to save tigers.

Wordlessly, the nine activists made their way past the security desk and headed for two rendezvous points — one, in a 12th-floor office suite in the iconic building’s north tower, the second, in an office just opposite, in the east tower. There, the two groups jimmied open several windows, attached rappelling gear to the window-washing stanchions, and climbed out into the chilly air.

Photo: Don Debold