The Weekender, March 17, 2017

1) “Escape to Another World” (1843 Magazine, 17 minutes, April 2017). The sub-head: “As video games get better and job prospects worse, more young men are dropping out of the job market to spend their time in an alternate reality. [Author] Ryan Avent suspects this is the beginning of something big.”

Over the last 15 years there has been a steady and disconcerting leak of young people away from the labour force in America. Between 2000 and 2015, the employment rate for men in their 20s without a college education dropped ten percentage points, from 82% to 72%. In 2015, remarkably, 22% of men in this group – a cohort of people in the most consequential years of their working lives – reported to surveyors that they had not worked at all in the prior 12 months. That was in 2015: when the unemployment rate nationwide fell to 5%, and the American economy added 2.7m new jobs. Back in 2000, less than 10% of such men were in similar circumstances.

What these individuals are not doing is clear enough, says Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, who has been studying the phenomenon. They are not leaving home; in 2015 more than 50% lived with a parent or close relative. Neither are they getting married. What they are doing, Hurst reckons, is playing video games. As the hours young men spent in work dropped in the 2000s, hours spent in leisure activities rose nearly one-for-one. Of the rise in leisure time, 75% was accounted for by video games. It looks as though some small but meaningful share of the young-adult population is delaying employment or cutting back hours in order to spend more time with their video game of choice.

2) A Book to Consider:  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The story above reminded me about this book — one of my favorites — and then I realized I didn’t have anything to share in the second slot here anyway, so, I’m suggesting this book  If you’re a child of the 80s and know your video games, you’ll love this story. It takes the story above to an extreme, with large parts of the novel’s reality taking place in a virtual, online game.


3) I’m trying something new today in the third slot for the Weekender — a Now I Know week in review:

And a bonus item: “Dennis the Coincidence” — the story of the two Dennis the Menaces that have nothing to do with one another, except that they both debuted 66 years ago this week.

4) “If Your iPhone is Stolen, These Guys May Try to iPhish You” (Krebs on Security, 11 minutes, March 2017). What happens when a hacker hacks a security expert? The hacker gets hacked back. This gets technical, fast, but it’s funny. Here’s the setup:

Victims of iPhone theft can use the Find My iPhone feature to remotely locate, lock or erase their iPhone — just by visiting Apple’s site and entering their iCloud username and password. Likewise, an iPhone thief can use those iCloud credentials to remotely unlock the victim’s stolen iPhone, wipe the device, and resell it. As a result, iPhone thieves often subcontract the theft of those credentials to third-party iCloud phishing services. This story is about one of those services.


5) “This troubled, covert agency is responsible for trucking nuclear bombs across America each day” (Los Angeles Times, 14 minutes, March 2017). The first sentence is a doozy: “The unmarked 18-wheelers ply the nation’s interstates and two-lane highways, logging 3 million miles a year hauling the most lethal cargo there is: nuclear bombs.” What?

6) “The Ultimate Pursuit in Hunting: Sheep” (New York Times, 19 minutes, February 2017). It’s apparently very, very hard to get a permit in the U.S. to hunt wild sheep, in part because there are so few wild sheep. (Most sheep are domesticated.) As a result, it’s become a hobby for only the most wealthy of outdoorsmen and created a subculture of its own. This is the story of that subculture.

Have a great weekend!