Writing Portfolio

Tech

peak newsletter

Peak Newsletter? That Was 80 Years Ago
WIRED, September 28, 2020

“By the time Claud Cockburn resigned from his post as foreign correspondent for The Times of London, he’d grown sick of the newspaper’s conservative streak. But even as a freelancer, he continued to struggle with what he saw as the media’s complacency toward the rise of ultra-nationalist movements around the world. So he tried a new approach: He’d start a newsletter, and make himself a brand.”

The Mortician Will Stream You Now
The New York Times, April 2, 2020

“Usually when Ms. Rifkind attends funerals, she said, she doesn’t cry. It’s too much pressure: She puts on a brave face for fear that her grief will become a burden. But in her home, as she watched her cousins say goodbye to Aunt Cecilia, ‘I didn’t have to hold it together for anyone,’ she said.”

The Digital Colonialism Behind .io and .nu
WIRED, February 7, 2020

“In late 2018, the tiny South Pacific island of Niue filed a lawsuit worth more than its entire economy. The case, which is under litigation in Stockholm, hinges on the rights to .nu, one of those country-specific extensions that appends a URL.”

Death Tech Has No Rules—Yet
WIRED, January 24, 2020

“In the last few years, state officials across the country have been forced to map a range of futuristic death technologies onto the creaky regulations of a prior age.”

The Smart Diaper is Coming. Who Actually Wants It?
Vox, May 2, 2019

“Over the past several years, a patchwork of tech and personal care companies have plunged millions of dollars into a race to control the baby product of the future: smartphone-enabled diapers.” [Audio version on NPR’s Marketplace.]

Economics

ice cream music

The Company That Has an Ice Cream Music Monopoly
The Hustle, October 11, 2020

“Nichols Electronics no longer controls just the vast majority of the music box market; it is the market.”

Why We Speak Starbucks
The Economist, July 22, 2020

“Every time a company gets a consumer to refer to its product using branded terminology rather than a generic description – Whoppers, say, rather than burgers – it is drawing them in to its own community.”

The “Invention” of the Flat Iron Steak
The Hustle, July 17, 2020

“Back then, it was rare to see a new steak enter the market. The flat iron became a proof-of-concept for the industry — and it left the beef titans craving more new cuts.”

Sports Stadiums Are Suddenly Full of Cardboard Fans
The Hustle, June 19, 2020

“Selling cardboard fans could be a small way to make up some lost revenue. And it might also give fans a viable way to support their favorite teams from afar.”

Why One Small Town Is Printing Its Own Currency During the Pandemic
The Hustle, June 12, 2020

“By creating its own local currency, Tenino keeps the money in the community. As Fournier puts it, “Amazon will not be accepting wooden dollars.”

Can the American Casket Monopoly Be Disrupted?
The Hustle, December 20, 2019

Politics

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The Rewriting of MLK Day
Vox, January 20, 2020

“State authority over how to designate holidays has given rise to an ominous downplaying of MLK’s legacy.”

How U.S. States Battle Out-of-Date Laws
Vox, December 6, 2019

“Laura Tharney can trace her fascination with weird, obsolete laws to trespassing pigs.”

Where Do All the Unused Gift Cards Go? 
The Atlantic, August 27, 2019

“Much of that money is then directed into government general funds, where states use it to patch up holes in their budgets—a strange and little-noticed chain of monetary custody in which cash intended for a Colorado Office Depot can wind up paying for infrastructure hundreds of miles away.”

No One Really Knows What to Do With All of America’s Unclaimed Corpses
The Atlantic, February 12, 2019

The Funeral Directors Deployed to America’s Deadliest Disasters
Gizmodo, February 5, 2019

“Vigil is one of 186 funeral directors who, when a disaster strikes, becomes an intermittent employee of a little-known division of HHS: the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, or DMORT.”

How Prisons Are Poisoning Their Inmates
The Outline, July 23, 2018

“A week after Richard Mosley arrived as an inmate at Pennsylvania’s maximum-security SCI Fayette prison in 2008, he started getting sick.”

The Million-Dollar Balloon Lobby

The Outline, April 26, 2018

“In May 2008, when California was considering an outright ban on the sale of foil balloons, the Balloon Council sprung into action.”

History

pandemic beard panic

The Great American Tradition of Beard Panics
Vox, March 30, 2020

“In times of pandemic, side-eyeing heavily whiskered friends might be an unfortunate national pastime.” [Also on NPR’s All Things Considered.]

Finding Asexuality in the Archives
Slate, March 6, 2020

“In countless queer spaces in the 1960s through the 1980s, ‘asexual’ was a recognized and valid self-identity. That history, however, has very rarely been told.”

Life in a Four-Mom Family
Slate, November 25, 2019

“First, she didn’t have a father—she was born in 1979 through artificial insemination. And second, Joseph didn’t just have two parents—she had four.”

The Stonewall of the South That History Forgot
Smithsonian, June 25, 2019

“Around 15 minutes into the film, Drue heard a whistle. Police officers rushed in through the aisles, shining flashlights into the audience.”

The Strange History of Accidental Gay Marriage
Lapham’s Quarterly, June 24, 2019

“When Yolanda Daniel and Jo Ann Martinez marched into the Merced County courthouse asking for a marriage license on the morning of January 16, 1976, local bureaucrats had no idea what to do.”

The 19th-Century Lithuanians Who Smuggled Books to Save Their Language 
Atlas Obscura, July 19, 2017

The Drag Queen Who Changed American Politics 
Atlas Oscura, November 26, 2016

(Read many more here and here.)

Essays

carly rae_boy problems.jpeg

The “Born This Way” Myth
Buzzfeed Reader, June 11, 2019

“Too often the belief in stable sexuality has pressured people to ‘prove’ that they really are queer — a demand that has often marginalized the least-acknowledged communities within the LGBT umbrella.”

Carly Rae Jepsen’s Queer Renaissance
Electric Literature, May 2, 2018

“[Jepsen’s] odes to emotion — not to romance, not to relationships, but simply to the primacy of feeling — offered something I couldn’t find elsewhere. Long before I was in a place to share my sexuality, much less have a relationship with another boy, ‘This Kiss’ and then ‘Gimmie Love’ and ‘Let’s Get Lost’ on E•MO•TION reveled in the beauty of an attraction I knew only to hate.”

Life and Death Online
Hazlitt, March 5, 2018

“This is the nature of grieving a friend you have never, or rarely, met: everything becomes internal. Simply accepting and expressing remorse becomes its own struggle, because the typical rituals—funerals, communication with loved ones of the deceased—are so often inaccessible.”

Who Even Knows

chicken diapers

The Booming Business of Luxury Chicken Diapers
The Outline, July 30, 2018

“Julie Baker never intended to become a figurehead of the luxury chicken-diaper industry.”