Weekend Reads: 10/23/2020

Can you vote early? If the answer is yes and you haven’t yet – what are you waiting for? Biden/Harris need your vote.

I’m going to be honest – there are a lot of depressing articles in this week’s post. If only only read one – honestly, you need to read most of these, but if you only have time for a few, please read the first Wired article and the subsequent Time one about herd immunity. There are just a lot of good ones this week and you’d benefit from reading most, if not all, of the ones.

But not everything is doom and gloom (or so we hope). There are three good articles to remind you that the world is not always a terrible place. In addition, I’d like to recommend a couple of book series.

The first is a fantasy series called The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club by Theodora Goss. This series follows the adventures (no, really) of Mary Jekyll and all of the “monsters” that she befriends. If you have any interested in gothic horror (though it is not actual horror, per se), slight romance, and wonderful strong female characters – consider this series! I listened to the audiobooks (read by the always wonderful Kate Reading) but imagine that the print (or eBook) version is equally as enjoyable to consume. The first book is The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daugther.

My second recommendation would be Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series. This is a young adult murder mystery series about Stevie Bell and her friends as she tries to navigate the world of a private boarding school, including the murder that has define the school for years and the hard life of a teenager. You’re in luck, because all three books in this series have finally been published you won’t need to wait long to read what happens in the next book. The first book is Truly Devious.

Now, onto your links.

It’s Time to Talk About Covid-19 and Surfaces Again (Wired – $$)

In the early days, we furiously scrubbed, afraid we could get sick from the virus lingering on objects and surfaces. What do we know now?

The White House Wants to Achieve Herd Immunity by Letting the Virus Rip. That Is Dangerous and Inhumane (Time)

For a start, no pandemic has ever been controlled by deliberately letting the infection spread unchecked in the hope that people become immune. We must do all we can to protect people from COVID-19, not let them get infected, to buy scientists time to develop vaccines and therapeutics to end the outbreak and alleviate suffering.

America’s Last Line of Defense for a Safe Vaccine (Scientific American)

The independent advisers to the CDC and FDA will not bend to politics

Why New Zealand rejected populist ideas other nations have embraced (Guardian)

Labour’s historic win delivered Ardern a second term while voters punished politicians who embraced populism

The Preexisting Conditions of the Coronavirus Pandemic (Wired – $$)

An enormous new data set peers into the health of the world’s population before 2020—and how the coronavirus turned that into a global disaster.

Undisclosed: Most Homebuyers And Renters Aren’t Warned About Flood Or Wildfire Risk (NPR)

None of the landlords, real estate agents, sellers, appraisers, bankers or home inspectors the families interacted with explained the risk of flooding or wildfires, because no one had to do so. Only about half of the states require that information about flood risk be disclosed to homebuyers, and just one state requires that such information be given to tenants. Only two Western states require disclosure of wildfire risk.

Songwriters Sometimes Wait Years After A Song Is Released To Get Paid Anything. These Women Want To Change That. (Buzzfeed)

“I’ve been in sessions starving, praying that they ask me if I’m hungry, hoping that the studio has snacks.”

A Reset for Library E-books (Publisher’s Weekly)

In the wake of the pandemic, can publishers and libraries finally hash out their differences?


Prickly business: the hedgehog highway that knits a village together (Guardian)

With their miniature ramps, stairs and holes cut into fences and stone walls, the gardens of Kirtlington in Oxfordshire are a haven for wildlife

Step Inside The Museum of Obsolete Library Science (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

There’s a popular misconception that librarians as a profession are conservative. Not politically conservative, but literally conservative—wanting to keep old stuff. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth—we are often on the cutting edge of using new technologies, and always looking for the most efficient, up-to-date way to help our patrons.

When a Town Council and a Sci-fi Museum Went to War Over a Dalek (Atlas Obscura)

Thanks to support from the community and the world, the Doctor Who villain is rising again

And now, your moment of calm.

Fall colors (c) K2sleddogs

Weekend Reads: 10/16/2020

You’ll notice there is a wide mix of articles this week. It’s because I know that, by Friday, we’ve all had it with the news. We won’t stop, of course (nor should we – the world is on fire), but we all need a break. That’s why not all of these articles of the current affairs type. I’m trying something new! Some are newer and some are quite old (at least 4 years old – I am cleaning out my read later folders).

The first part will always be articles dealing with hard topics, current issues (like the election, state of the world, the pandemic, etc) and the second section will be the fun stuff, as it were. If this works or doesn’t – let me know!

Senator Gary Peters Shares His Abortion Story (Elle)

He’s the first sitting senator in history to do so.

Don’t Grieve Alone. Reach Out. (NYT – $$)

Finding emotional support during a crisis often means turning to long-established networks already built for distance.

For Refugees, Home Is a Place Called Never (Zócalo Public Square)

Having Fled Sarajevo as a Child, I Find It Hard Telling Syrians There Is No Going Back

Going Sohla (Vultre – $$)

After leaving Bon Appétit, the chef now has her own show — where she’s paid fairly for her fantastic creations.


The World’s Longest-Running Experiment Is Buried in a Secret Spot in Michigan (Atlas Obscura)

In the fall of 1879, Dr. William James Beal walked to a secret spot on Michigan State University’s campus and planted a strange crop: 20 narrow-necked glass bottles, each filled with a mixture of moist sand and seeds.

Flyting Was Medieval England’s Version of an Insult-Trading Rap Battle (Atlas Obscura)

Imagine a world that had swapped its guns for puns and its IEDs for repartees. Such a planet is possible if only those in power would manage their conflicts with flyting, the time-honored sport of verbal jousting.

The Tree That Would Not Be Broken (Narratively)

It was the last living thing rescued from the ruins of 9/11. A dozen years later, one mythical pear tree is finally home, and branching out from Ground Zero in mystical ways.

Watch the video (tw: 9/11 footage):

This Artist Sculpts Animals and Flowers From Grains of Rice (Atlas Obscura)

Guorui Chen brought a hometown tradition back from extinction.

Have a great fall weekend everyone and don’t forget to vote if you haven’t yet.

Michigan Fall - Seven Lakes State Park
Michigan Fall – Seven Lakes State Park (c) Mike

Weekend Reads: 10/09/2020

As we crawl ever closer to the presidential election in November, I want to remind you that all must vote and you must vote Biden/Harris. There is no alternative, no other choice. If you value your life and the lives of the people around you, and on this planet as a whole – you must vote for Biden/Harris. They were not my top picks, but I no longer care about that and neither should you.

Vote.

Now, onto the articles.

Mike Pence Is the Future. God Help Us. (The Bulwark)

This is your Republican party now.

Meet the Customer Service Reps for Disney and Airbnb Who Have to Pay to Talk to You (ProPublica)

Arise Virtual Solutions, part of the secretive world of work-at-home customer service, helps large corporations shed costs at the expense of workers. Now the pandemic is creating a boom in the industry.

Dreading a dark winter lockdown? Think like a Norwegian (Guardian)

Studies show people living in the Arctic Circle are armed with a mindset that helps combat the long ‘polar night’. It might come in handy for us all…

Now, two older articles to remind us, in part, why voting this year is so important.

Call It Rape (Long Reads / The Normal School)

“What is it about ‘no means no’ that you all don’t understand?”

The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker (Esquire)

In Mississippi, there is only one clinic where a woman can go if she needs an abortion. The state is trying to close it down. At that clinic, there is a doctor who tends to the needs of these women, and he has to fly in from out of state to do it. There is no shutting him down.

I’ll leave you with the beautiful title song from Maeve Gilchrist’s newest album, The Harpweaver (Spotify and Apple Music). Listen to an interview with Gilchrist on NPR here.

Weekend Reads 10/02/2020

Wow. It’s been a week, hasn’t it? Here are some articles to read – if you can tear yourself away from social media for a few minutes. If the news ever takes a break.

It Took COVID Closures to Reveal Just How Much Libraries Do Beyond Lending Books (Observer)

This behind the scenes diligence meant that during the pandemic, libraries were able to prove themselves to be more resilient, future-proof and adaptable than many of us may have realized. In fact, the coronavirus crisis has enabled many libraries to truly prove their worth.

Look Toward a New Era (NY Times – $$)

With a shift to online resources well underway, “the most trusted civic institutions” are in a good position to deal with the changing future.

Hero Rat Wins A Top Animal Award For Sniffing Out Land Mines (NPR)

For the first time, one of Britain’s highest animal honors has been awarded to a rat. The animal has detected dozens of land mines in Cambodia and is believed to have saved lives.

Attack of the Superhackers (narratively)

A group of ex-soldiers cracks safes, picks locks and steals data — all in the name of corporate security.

Millennials Are Trying To Shake The Stigma Of Moving Back In With Their Parents (Buzzfeed)

Millennials are moving back in with their parents in numbers not seen since the Great Depression. Here’s what it’s like for some of them.

A School Ran a Simulation of the Pandemic—Before the Pandemic (Wired – $$)

A Florida middle school has staged mock outbreaks for years to teach science and civics. Last December’s lesson was an uncanny harbinger of Covid-19.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Cemetery in the cold October rain | Park Cemetery, Marquette, Michigan.
(c) yooperann

Weekend Reads: 9/25/2020

It’s been a week, hasn’t it? On the global scale things aren’t great. Everyone’s experiences are different and several people I know, including my extended family (as I’ve mentioned) have suffered loses due to this pandemic. But you know what all of this means? It means we don’t give up.

I know we want to. I’ve seen it all over Twitter and Facebook. RBG’s death has really hit a lot of people hard, myself included. But we cannot let this tragedy (for that’s what it is) stop us from fighting. We must donate money to Democratic candidates and to bail funds and abortion funds. And most important, come November 3rd, all American citizens must vote.

The only way this country is going to make it is if we vote Biden/Harris. And, if you can, give some money to them. But please, VOTE and keep fighting.

Kévin Reza: I haven’t seen a lot of solidarity in cycling (cyclingnews)

B&B Hotels-Vital Concept rider on Black Lives Matter and racing for the smallest team in the Tour de France

The Wrong Fires (On the Media)

What happens when minor stories detract media attention from urgent crises.

The Glorious RBG (Intelligencer | NY Magazine)

I learned, while writing about her, that her precision disguised her warmth.

A 5-Decade-Long Friendship That Began With A Phone Call (NPR)

In 1971, newly assigned to cover the Supreme Court, I was reading a brief in what would ultimately be the landmark case of Reed v. Reed. It argued that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause applied to women. I didn’t understand some of the brief, so I flipped to the front to see who the author was, and I placed a call to Rutgers law professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Here are a three Ginsberg related things to watch. I’ve seen RBG and it is fantastic. The UMS newsletter shared the 2015 interview.

Sam Neill On His Social Media Fame: “If It’s Cheered Up One Or Two People, Then My Time Was Well Spent” (GQ Australia)

Easily one of the country’s finest (adopted) actors and certainly among its most admired, Sam Neill has also spent four decades as one of its most prolific. But as the film industry ground to a halt, we caught up with Neill to discuss this new age of uncertainty, the future of the arts and his recent foray into social media stardom.

Note: These next two articles go together. Read the short story first, and then the response essay.

“How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary” by Tochi Onyebuchi (Slate)

In this new short story, a city tries to use an algorithm to pay reparations.

Racism Cannot Be Reduced to Mere Computation by Charlton McIlwain (Slate)

No amount of A.I. can save white America’s soul, or restore Black Americans’ long-foreclosed-upon and deferred dreams.

Note: Two related articles from Vice by James Clifton

2012 Is Bullshit; 2020 Is When We’ll Really Be in Trouble

Scientist Peter Turchin’s work suggests that the next state of upheaval in the US is set to hit in 2020 based on historical violence cycles.

The Scientist Who Predicted 2020’s Political Unrest On What Comes Next

Catching up with Peter Turchin, whose theory predicted a period of political violence starting this year.

Why Every City Feels the Same Now (Atlantic – $$)

Glass-and-steel monoliths replaced local architecture. It’s not too late to go back.

Let this video inspire you.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Weekend Reads: 09/18/2020

Some reminders to get your weekend started:

1) When you go out, if you’re going to be around other people, please wear a mask. It helps (NPR). Need a reason to wear a mask? Here you go:

None of those who died actually attended the wedding and reception.

2) Check to make sure that you’re registered to vote! You can do that here (Vote.org). Here are some more resources:

3) Get your flu shot! It’s not too early – in fact it’s the right time. Not sure why, since we’re all staying inside (if we can)? This might help:

Experts worry that the two diseases could overwhelm the health care system and create a new shortage of hospital beds and personal protective equipment.

Thanks for your time! Now, here are your weekend reads.


There are no good choices (VOX)

In shifting so much responsibility to individual people, America’s government has revealed the limits of individualism.

“That’s Their Problem”: How Jared Kushner Let the Markets Decide America’s COVID-19 Fate (Vanity Fair)

First-person accounts of a tense meeting at the White House in late March suggest that President Trump’s son-in-law resisted taking federal action to alleviate shortages and help Democratic-led New York. Instead, he enlisted a former roommate to lead a Consultant State to take on the Deep State, with results ranging from the Eastman Kodak fiasco to a mysterious deal to send ventilators to Russia.

How The Pandemic Is Widening The Racial Wealth Gap (NPR)

Sixty percent of Black households are facing serious financial problems since the pandemic began, according to a national poll released this week by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. That includes 41% who say they’ve used up most or all their savings, while an additional 10% had no savings before the outbreak.

Latinos and Native Americans are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s economic impact. Seventy-two percent of Latino and 55% of Native American respondents say their households are facing serious financial problems, compared with 36% of whites.

“Little Prince” Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on Love, Mortality, and Night as an Existential Clarifying Force for the Deepest Truths of the Heart (brainpickings)

“Day belongs to family quarrels, but with the night he who has quarreled finds love again. For love is greater than any wind of words… Love is not thinking, but being.”

The Secret History of Hypertext (The Atlantic – $$)

The conventional history of computing leaves out some key thinkers.

[..]

In the years leading up to World War II, a number of European thinkers were exploring markedly similar ideas about information storage and retrieval, and even imagining the possibility of a global network—a feature notably absent from the Memex. Yet their contributions have remained largely overlooked in the conventional, Anglo-American history of computing.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

drawing of The Little Prince sitting on the sand and looking up at the sun. he is dressed like a pilot
The Little Prince – illustration from the Korean translation of The Little Prince by Kim Min Ji

Weekend Reads: 9/11/2020

I don’t have any thoughtful commentary for you today. I had some earlier in the week and then forgot to write them down. In addition, most of my attention (for better or for worse) has been focused on the state of the world and sports. So, I guess just enjoy(?) this small selection of articles.

Let’s get real. No vaccine will work as if by magic, returning us to ‘normal’ (Guardian)

To dream of imminent solutions is only human. But progress will come from controlled expectations

Jobs in these industries won’t come back even after the pandemic is over (CNN)

Most of the job losses thus far have been in industries impacted by social distancing, such as entertainment, restaurants and personal care. Those industries are likely to recover once the fear of the pandemic subsides. However, automation and the rapid shift to e-commerce, remote work and online learning will lead to job losses in several other industries that will last well beyond the pandemic.

America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral (The Atlantic – their COVID coverage is free)

As the U.S. heads toward the winter, the country is going round in circles, making the same conceptual errors that have plagued it since spring.

Sid Meier: ‘I’m not sure I’d play Civilisation if it was released today’ (Independent)

The creator of one of the most complex and influential video games of all time talks to Ed Cumming about his new autobiography, developments in technology, and storytelling

It Will Take More Than a Vaccine to Beat COVID-19 (New Yorker – $$$)

Vaccines are making progress, but they may not defeat the virus completely. Luckily, other therapies are on the way, too.

And, before you go, enjoy this song by one of my favorite singer, Gaho.

Weekend Reads: 9/4/2020

Over the past week I have spent a lot of time watching sports – it’s a very weird feeling, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic but at the same time it’s a comfort. I’ve watched my favorite tennis player win on Monday and then lose, two days later (as he is prone to do) and have watched most of the first week of the 2020 Tour de France (I missed the first stage on August 30th).

Sports during a pandemic, as we all know, are strange. In particular because the Tour is in August/September instead of July, there are far fewer fans than normal (and those that are watching the race are almost all masked), and the riders are almost universally masked when not actively riding their bikes on the stage. It is strange because at the US Open there are no fans (aside from fellow tennis players, coaches, and the occasional family member and journalist), they are pumping in crowd sounds when there’s no action on the court, and displaying video screens with videos of fans cheering. It is unnerving, but it is also the world we live in.

I know it’s important to find comfort in familiar things when the world is burning around us, but we must not forget the fact that the world is on fire.

I wrote some original fiction for July’s Camp Nano (an offshoot of NanoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month) and, because I am always drawn to write post-apocalyptic stories, that’s what I wrote. It’s set about 30 after this pandemic, ten years after flooding (due to climate change) destroys much of the planet. My main character was born this year and she looks back at the pandemic and is appalled at the 200,000 deaths.

When I wrote that story, it was in July and it seemed we were doing better and maybe we wouldn’t reach that dreaded number of 200,000 people needlessly dying from COVID-19. It turns out that should I ever edit that novel and turn it into something that will see the light of day, I’ll have to adjust that section.

Why? Because it is highly likely that we have already passed that 200,000 death mark:

I am luckily, so far I have lost no immediately family members to the virus, but I know people who have. I am not alone, of course, but we need to remember that every one of those 200,000 deaths were deaths of human beings. Individual people. They are both statistics and more than just numbers.

Never forget that responsibility for each and every single one of those people’s deaths from COVID-19 lies squarely on the shoulders of the current administration in the White House. They could have saved lives, they chose to end them instead.

Last weekend, Detroit held a beautiful memorial/funeral for the thousands of Detroit residents who died from COVID-19:

What do 900+ people look like? They look beautiful. They are a reminder of everything we, and this country, have had stolen from us. Artist Eric Millikin created the mural below to represent all that we have lost:

So, as you’re enjoying your three day weekend, watching sports, and enjoying the nice weather – don’t forget what’s going on in the world. Don’t forget that 200,000 people in the United States have died. Don’t forget that you can help stop this virus.

Now, for the rest of your weekend reads:

When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shows up at a peaceful protest in battle fatigues, it’s time to pay attention. (The Atlantic – $$)

At the Republican National Convention, Trump advisor Larry Kudlow said the pandemic “was awful.” On this week’s On the Media, why some politicians and educators are using the past tense to describe an active threat. Plus, how COVID could prompt long-term changes to American higher ed.

The acclaimed novelist lost her beloved husband—the father of her children—as COVID-19 swept across the country. She writes through their story, and her grief.

And, on the occasion of the loss of Chadwick Boseman to cancer:

Rahawa Haile considers how, by sliding between the real and unreal, Black Panther frees us to imagine the possibilities — and the limitations — of an Africa that does not yet exist.

And, lastly, enjoy this superbly choreographed dance by The Kinjaz.

Weekend Reads – Friday, August 30 2020

This week’s post is a collection of articles that span a lot of topics. There’s no theme, except that I found all of these links interesting. If you’re looking for something a bit more pandemic related, check out my Wednesday Links post from earlier in the week – it’s all about COVID/SARS COV2.

How to Outrun a Dinosaur (Wired – $$)

If, through some scientific malfunction, you found yourself transported 70 million years into the past, you might be safer from certain hungry reptiles than you think.

The K-Pop Fans Who Tweet Fake News (Paper Magazine)

Why some K-Pop fans obsessively “clear the searches”

Black ‘The Sims 4’ Players Are Changing One of the World’s Biggest Games (Vice)

The Sims has been an industry leader in terms of diversity and inclusion, but black players have been fighting to see themselves in the game for years.

Transparent Public Toilets Unveiled In Tokyo Parks — But They Also Offer Privacy (NPR)

The project’s eye-catching toilets are part of a plan to put people at ease when visiting a public bathroom – a prospect that can trigger a number of responses, from relief to trepidation.

Note: I love these bathrooms. They are absolutely gorgeous – especially when seen at night. It makes me want to move to Japan.

Anatomy of a Photograph: Authoritarianism in America (The Atlantic – $$)

When the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shows up at a peaceful protest in battle fatigues, it’s time to pay attention.

The Prince of Georgia Is Big on Instagram (Wired – $$)

The musician BERA is the son of the country’s former prime minister and richest man. When street protests arose in Tbilisi, I went to check on him.

Confessions of an ID Theft Kingpin: Parts One and Two (Krebs on Security)

At the height of his cybercriminal career, the hacker known as “Hieupc” was earning $125,000 a month running a bustling identity theft service that siphoned consumer dossiers from some of the world’s top data brokers. That is, until his greed and ambition played straight into an elaborate snare set by the U.S. Secret Service. Now, after more than seven years in prison Hieupc is back in his home country and hoping to convince other would-be cybercrooks to use their computer skills for good.

And finally, a cartoon that sums up a lot of how I feel. Tag yourself: I’m Too Direct

COVID Risk Comfort Zone (xkcd)

Wednesday Links: SARS-CoV-2 & COVID-19

I was going to wait for Friday to post these, but I ended up with a lot of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 articles, so I’m sharing them today instead.

If you only read one article, read this one (thanks to my sister for linking sharing this one with me):

COVID-19 Is Transmitted Through Aerosols. We Have Enough Evidence, Now It Is Time to Act (Time)

When it comes to COVID-19, the evidence overwhelmingly supports aerosol transmission, and there are no strong arguments against it. For example, contact tracing has found that much COVID-19 transmission occurs in close proximity, but that many people who share the same home with an infected person do not get the disease. To understand why, it is useful to use cigarette or vaping smoke (which is also an aerosol) as an analog. Imagine sharing a home with a smoker: if you stood close to the smoker while talking, you would inhale a great deal of smoke. Replace the smoke with virus-containing aerosols, which behave very similarly, and the impact is similar: the closer you are to someone releasing virus-carrying aerosols, the more likely you are to breathe in larger amounts of virus.

Why The Coronavirus Is So ‘Superspready’ (NPR)

A person with a high viral load walks into a bar.

That, according to researchers who study the novel coronavirus, is a recipe for a superspreading event — where one person or gathering leads to an unusually high number of new infections. And that kind of occurrence is increasingly considered a hallmark of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

A New Study Suggests a Possible Disease Vector: Germy Dust (Wired – $$)

Since the pandemic’s beginning, scientists have argued over how respiratory viruses can spread. Now an experiment with guinea pigs and influenza is adding a new wrinkle.

Note: about the above article, it’s a bit panic inducing, as one would expect, however this is from the end of the article, which should make everyone feel a tiny bit better:

“This information adds to our understanding about where virus in the air might be coming from, but it doesn’t change how we should approach it,” Marr wrote in an email to WIRED. “The same things that we’ve been doing—wearing masks, keeping our distance, avoiding crowds, and ensuring good ventilation—will also help reduce the risk of transmission from breathing in virus that gets into the air this way.” So mask up and keep on carrying on (from a distance).

I Won’t Drink Today, and I Won’t Get the Virus Today (The Atlantic – $$)

Alcoholics Anonymous prepared me for the pandemic.

You can get reinfected with Covid-19 but still have immunity. Let’s explain. (VOX)

A 33-year-old man was confirmed to be reinfected with Covid-19. This likely isn’t as bad as it sounds.

And, finally, something a bit less stressful (and a lot more enjoyable). 10/10 would recommend his vlogs – I’ve included the first one below, if you’d like to just start watching.

This COVID-19 summer’s must-watch show is… an NBA rookie’s YouTube page? (Ars Technica)

NBA player/amateur filmmaker Matisse Thybulle has created essential epidemiological viewing.