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The Weekender: social justice edition

What 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 49th 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

Eric Garner Protests, Nationwide

Two grand juries chose not to indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in the last two weeks. As a result, Americans are taking to the streets to voice their disappointment and outrage at a system seemingly bent on protecting police over its citizenry. If you feel that these decisions were in any way wrong, it's your civic right and responsibility to get up, get out there, and make your voice heard.

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Don't try this: meet the high schooler who made $300K trading penny stocks under his desk

Most people wouldn't recommend buying into penny stocks. But thanks to his smartphone, high-school student Connor Bruggemann was able to make them pay off. Here's how the mobile web is changing the face of stock traders — and how Bruggemann used that to win out in a big way.

High school girls build kick-ass robots

Girls aren't supposed to like engineering, but a high-school teacher in Phoenix set out to prove that sentiment wrong. He's started up a girls-only robotics team, and it hasn't taken long to get teenage girls soldering, wiring, repairing, and doing everything else it takes to build amazing machines.

From here to paternity: how paid leave for dads helps women at work

Paternity leave is meant to help men, but it turns out that it can be a big help for women, too. New fathers want to stay out on paid leave — and letting them do so means creating an even playing field for all parents in the workplace.

If cameras can't hold police accountable for Eric Garner's death, what can?

On-body cameras for cops are supposed to keep police (and the public) honest about their interactions, but this week showed that even clear video evidence isn't enough to indict a cop for apparent wrongdoing. Now, it's time for Americans to admit that there's no easy solution to stopping racially motivated violence by the police — even if it isn't quite so clear what should be done next.

How did Orion withstand temperatures twice the melting point of steel?

NASA just sent a spacecraft circling around the earth, and engineer Molly White is one of the people who made that possible. We spoke with her after the launch about what it's like watching her own work take flight, how NASA is designing heat shields meant for an eventual trip to Mars, and what comes next for all of the data that Orion collected.

Chris Rock Talks to Frank Rich About Ferguson

Frank Rich has a lengthy conversation with Chris Rock about Bill Cosby, Robin Williams, and race relations in America.

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, "Oh, he stopped punching her in the face." It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

Chris Rock

My Great-Great-Aunt Discovered Francium. And It Killed Her.

The New York Times Magazine
Veronique Greenwood talks about the sacrifice often inherent to scientific discovery, and recounts Marguerite Perey's discovery of Francium.

In general, scientists whose risks pay off in the ways they expect are the ones who become the most famous, who get their stories written in romantic and memorable terms. This is particularly true if those expectations are grandiose and the risks they take are tragic. But such people represent a vanishingly small part of those who dedicate their lives to science. "We have this selection bias on when it does work out in an extraordinary way," Lynette Shaw, a sociologist who studies how we assign value to ideas, objects and people, told me. Perey’s story "gets to this deep question about what’s the value in doing things? Is it the end result? Or is it just because it has inherent worth to pursue them?"


Death Becomes Him

Eric Puchner profiles Caleb Wilde, a funeral director with poetic sensibility who wants to make death more human.

Of course, we like to keep our distance in this way, which is why we pay the death fairies to take care of it. Americans don’t like to talk about the inevitable: Our screens are filled with zombies, and yet speaking frankly about death is seen as "morbid" or "unhealthy." Surely the recent Ebola panic is a product of this repression, a way of turning our own mortality into a foreign threat, an illegal immigrant landing on our shores. Death is embarrassing to us, even a bit unpatriotic. I’ve discovered this about my own fear of extinction. When I bring it up, people tend to shift in their chairs, as if holding in a fart. A look of impatience crosses their faces. Just as often, too, they can’t understand what the hell I’m talking about.

Magical Thinking: Bitcoin Gathers at Disney

Sam Biddle goes to the inaugural Coins in the Kingdom conference, a three-day party for Bitcoin enthusiasts trying to change the world.

Faith in the blockchain hadn't amounted to much beyond a mini-bubble of venture capital and a lot of startup confidence, but in the aftermath of the wedding, it was unimpeachable. A hyperactive child stomped down the aisle as the cake crowd dwindled, shouting "I'M SATOSHI NAKAMOTO! I INVENTED BITCOIN!" over and over, to the delight of every guest. If bitcoin amounts to nothing more than a strange mid-decade fad and cautionary lesson for future MBA classes, at least it made a group of people happy for a couple hours.

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Wu-Tang Clan - A Better Tomorrow

The Wu-Tang Clan's 20th anniversary album, A Better Tomorrow, is finally out and it's good. From the opening track that throws things all the way back to 36 Chambers, this record demands to be listened to all the way through. Granted, the Wu is no longer the united front it once was, and once can sense the tensions that have bled their way into the news. Still, the members are as sharp as ever. Old fans and new need this in their collections.

Sleater-Kinney - Surface Envy

Sleater-Kinney is back, and they want you to know they're excited about it. After announcing their reunion earlier this fall, the band has a brand new single in "Surface Envy," which showcases the members' talents and meshes them together into an excellent rocker. We can't wait for the album.

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Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions - Cross-Platform

The first Geometry Wars title for Xbox 360 became one of the console's most beloved launch games. It was simple but frenetic arcade-style fun. Geometry Wars 3 tries to build on the original formula in clever, fun, but incredibly frustrating ways. Mostly because the game, now with a full campaign and re-imagined levels, is really hard. There are 50 levels to grind through, so you'll be here for awhile. You can, however, always opt to play through the Arcade mode.

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Do the Right Thing

Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing turned 25 this year, but much of the subject matter — especially race relations in the inner city — resonates to this day. The film follows Mookie, a Brooklyn pizza delivery man, as he traverses his neighborhood and interacts with its colorful residents on a particularly hot summer day. The death of the iconic Radio Raheem concerns us most here, especially since Lee recently remixed the scene with footage from Eric Garner's arrest and subsequent death. The film ends on a cautiously optimistic note about reconciliation, despite there being costs on both sides. This is an important film, and you should see it.