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The Weekender: on ebola panic, the Flash, and fixing free will

Everything to do, see, and read this weekend

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Good morning, and welcome back to the Weekender. Our weekend journey is just now starting, so thank you for choosing us for your travels. As you may recall, this was the 41st week of the year 2014 on the planet known colloquially as Earth, otherwise known as Terra in other inhabited star systems. It was not a quiet week, as you might imagine. Below you'll find your itinerary, carefully crafted for your pleasure; stories from the week passed and recommendations for the days ahead. Now. Please sit back and relax as we take you on a journey through time and space. You might hear a slight buzzing in your ears as we get started.

Do this

Barcade St. Mark's, New York City

Barcade, the beloved chain of boozy arcades for adults, just opened its newest location on St. Mark's Place in New York City. Setting this new location apart, however, is its focus on '90s classics like Street Fighter II and Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. Old-school gamers should love it.

Barcade St. Mark's

Tower of the Sun, Japan

Osaka's 230-feet-tall Tower of the Sun, designed by Japanese artist Tarō Okamoto, is strange and pretty incredible. Built for the Expo '70 world's fair in 1970, the building itself has been neglected for decades but very recently reopened to the public. It has three outer faces, each meant to represent either the past, present, and future, while on the inside there's the "Tree of Life" which depicts the evolution of all creatures.

Tower of the Sun

Read this

King of click: the story of the greatest keyboard ever made

You know that really nice sound a good keyboard makes? Well this keyboard makes the best sound, and it might just be the best keyboard out there period. Here's the story of how IBM's historic Model M came around, and why it isn't going away anytime soon.

Portland enlists big data to make biking safer

Portland is already one of the most bikeable cities out there, and it's trying to get even better. Using data from the popular ride-tracking app Strava, Oregon's transportation department plans to learn about local riders and base improvements around their habits.

Ebola panic is getting pretty racist

The more the Ebola crisis goes on, the more it's become colored by racism and xenophobia — from Americans' reactions to how drugs are distributed. What we should be doing? Demanding more help for everyone.

My lap of terror in the Tesla D

Telsa just unveiled an all-wheel-drive supercar, and we got to take a ride in it. See our photos of the Tesla D and watch what it's like to travel really fast.

Welcome to 'Endgame,' Google's worldwide augmented reality game that begins today

Endgame is a lot more than just a book. Through a deep collaboration with Google, author James Frey is building an entire sci-fi universe for fans to explore.

The Best Monster

Vanessa Veselka follows Zak Smith, an artist and alt porn performer who's also a notorious Dungeons & Dragons game master.

When I get there at 2 p.m., Zak is just getting up. The D&D game isn’t until the next night, but Zak has offered to spend the day with me. Sitting down in the kitchen, it occurs to me that in many ways his rise in the D&D world began around tables like these: a longtime player, he started running games for porn stars, games that led to a Web series, “I Hit It With My Axe,” and one of the most popular blogs in the D&D universe, which became a platform for his thoughts on theory, and books that won awards. He wrote about the game endlessly, and what he wrote was endlessly debated.

Zak Smith

Drones and Everything After

New York Magazine
Benjamin Wallace-Wells, through a series of interviews, examines how drones are being used to grant their owners superpowers.

Lost in the concern that the drone is an authoritarian instrument is the possibility that it might simultaneously be a democratizing tool, enlarging not just the capacities of the state but also the reach of the individual — the private drone operator, the boy in Cupertino — whose view is profoundly altered and whose abilities are enhanced. “The idea I’m trying to work out to simplify this whole thing — surveillance, drones, robots — has to do with superhero ethics,” says Patrick Lin, a technology ethicist at California Polytechnic State University. “It’s about what humans do when they have superpowers. What happens then?”

Trouble At the Koolaid Point

Serious Pony
Kathy Sierra, Java developer and online abuse survivor, breaks down why the trolls win, though they don't have to.

A particularly robust troll-crafted hot button meme today is that some women are out to destroy video games (shoutout to #gamergaters). Another is that they are taking jobs from men. Men who are, I mean obviously, more deserving. “If women/minorities/any oppressed group are given special treatment, that’s not equality,” they argue “I guess you don’t believe in equality, feminists.” Quickly followed by, “wait, did I say ‘oppressed group’? There’s no such thing as an oppressed group I just meant Professional Victims Who Pretend To Be Oppressed And Serve Social Justice Warrior Koolaid.”

Life for women in tech, today, is often better the less visible they are. Less visible means fewer perceived Koolaid drinkers.

Behind League of Legends, E-Sports's Main Attraction

The New York Times
David Segal delves deep into the development and popularity of League of Legends.

Since its debut in 2009, League of Legends has evolved from a small population of desktop-computer warriors into a full-scale phenomenon. In the process, it has become an e-sport. If you are not a male between the ages of 15 and 25, a group that Riot says accounts for 90 percent of all LoL players, the odds are good that you have never heard of e-sports, a catchall term for games that resemble conventional sports insofar as they have superstars, playoffs, fans, uniforms, comebacks and upsets. But all the action in e-sports occurs online, and the contestants hardly move.

The free-will fix

Walter Glannon discusses free will as a phenomenon having to do with how the brain is wired, and how techniques like deep brain stimulation can lead the way toward "free will prosthetics."

The best way to study free will, I posited, might be through neurological and psychiatric disorders resulting from dysfunction in neural circuits regulating movement, cognition and mood. Patients with Parkinson’s disease experience uncontrollable tremors or equally debilitating rigidity. For those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviour seem impossible to suppress. Major depression can dull motivation and destroy the capacity for pleasure. Damage to the region of the brain regulating memory formation can limit the capacity to recall experiences and project oneself into the future. Other traumatic brain injuries undermine free will by causing extensive paralysis and the inability to communicate. If we think of free will as the ability to plan and act without mental or physical compulsion or constraint, then these brain disorders represent a spectrum in which free will is mildly to completely impaired.

Listen to this

Caribou - Our Love

Dan Snaith is at his best on his latest record, and it doesn't take long for him to work his magic on you. Each track feels simple but affecting, and Caribou's mastery of dance means every bit of you will be moving by track two.

SBTRKT - Wonder Where We Land

We were already big fans of "New Dorp. New York" when it dropped over the summer, but SBTRKT's entire new album is a must-listen. Each track offers something new, whether its a stripped down piano track or an atmospheric fever dream featuring A$AP Ferg. Get into this.

Play this

Alien: Isolation - Cross-Platform

Alien is easily one of the scariest movies ever made. That's a powerful thing, and an incredible legacy to live up to. Luckily, Alien: Isolation mostly succeeds, capturing the terror and desperation that comes with being alone with a killing machine in deep space. It's not perfect, weighed down as it is by awkward play mechanics and dumb human characters, but when the game's elements work — especially when the Xenomorph is around — it sings. Just don't forget to breathe.

Watch this

The Flash

We really enjoyed The Flash when we previewed it at Comic-Con, and it might just be the standout DC show of the season. (We're still giving Gotham and Constantine a chance, of course.) The show follows Barry Allen as he discovers his powers after a calamity in Central City. It's often pretty silly, but it's fun and perfectly engaging. Plus, there's sure to be a few Arrow crossovers in the works.