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 10/02/2020

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 – 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.

Weekend Reads – Friday, August 14 2020

Have some time this weekend? Here are some links I’ve been meaning to post for a while.

As a side note, if a subscription may be required to view the article, you’ll see dollar signs ($$) next to the publication name. If you don’t have a subscription to the publication, sometimes you can view these articles in the incognito/private mode of your browser. If you notice one I’ve not marked, let me know.

Tune In, Drop Out (Rest of World)

In the face of social and professional pressure, many young South Koreans are simply opting out — and the economy is adapting to them.

America Should Prepare for a Double Pandemic (The Atlantic)

COVID-19 has steamrolled the country. What happens if another pandemic starts before this one is over?

Streaming Isn’t Everything, and Blu-rays Are Back to Prove It (Wired – $$)

As the gaps in streaming libraries become greater, so does physical media’s comeback story.

My Father Says He’s a ‘Targeted Individual.’ Maybe We All Are (Wired – $$)

My dad is one of thousands who believe the government is subjecting them to mind control. As a daughter and a journalist, I felt a duty to investigate his claims. Have these individuals been America’s prophets all along?

The Widely-Spoken Languages We Still Can’t Translate Online (Wired – $$)

People who speak languages missing from Google Translate, Siri, and Wikipedia will face future crises—leaving aid organizations scrambling.

Reconsidering the Jewish American Princess (Vox)

How the JAP became America’s most complex Jewish stereotype.

Emily Dickinson’s Electric Love Letters to Susan Gilbert (Brain Pickings)

“Come with me this morning to the church within our hearts, where the bells are always ringing, and the preacher whose name is Love — shall intercede for us!”

Photographs of (models of) the moon (1874) (Public Domain Review)

Weekend Reads

These are late, but please spend some time reading. Also, if you can’t get to a protest, Wired has a bunch of things you can do to help:

Your weekend reads are below. I ran out of time to read all of these, but I plan to before the weekends up – and you should, too.

Notes – The NY Times, Wired, and Atlantic articles may have paywalls – if you run into them, try a different browser, incognito mode, a different device, or consider a subscription (I am debating subscribing to The Atlantic).

Please stay safe, stay healthy, and defund the police.

Wednesday Links (05/06/2020)

Here are this week’s timely links. I would recommend making sure you’re not feeling overwhelmed or overly depressed when reading the Politico article, because it will make you feel worse.

At the beginning, I did not support mask wearing because it didn’t protect people from getting sick – and we didn’t know that the virus could be spread by people without symptoms. In mid-March I read somewhere (maybe on twitter?) about how it’s not about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting other people. I now believe we should all wear masks. This article does a good job of explaining why. If you only read one of these articles, read this one. 

While much of the hand-wringing for the past month of more has been forward-looking — how coronavirus will change life at some point in the future — Hasen says the coronavirus is already changing American democracy, and that unless we adapt swiftly we’re headed for a world of pain in November.

Like I said – you need to be in a good place (if at all possible) before reading this article because it will make you deeply unhappy.

Now, something a bit lighter. I found this article over the weekend, but NPR beat me to the punch this morning. You can listen to their story here.

And now, a very good (and long) read from the before times:

  • In Deep (The New Yorker – 4/2014)
    • The dark and dangerous world of extreme cavers.

Deep caving has no end. Every depth record is provisional, every barrier a false conclusion. Every cave system is a jigsaw puzzle, groped at blindly in the dark. A mountain climber can at least pretend to some mastery over the planet. But cavers know better. When they’re done, no windy overlook awaits them, no sea of salmon-tinted clouds. Just a blank wall or an impassable sump and the knowledge that there are tunnels upon tunnels beyond it. The earth goes on without them. “People often misunderstand,” Short told me. “All you find is cave. There is nothing else down there.”

This story is excellent and a nice way to spend some time reading. 

Your moment of calm:

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium (c) Pete

Wednesday Links: 04/29/2020

Yes, we’re trying this again. I’m going to try something new – one or two relevant and timely links and one or two from the before time. I hope you can enjoy (?) these links.

Timely Links:

This is an excellent, thoughtful article that is also hard to read because there is so much we don’t know. I want to pull out one quote, the one that I hope you remember. It’s from the very end of the article:

And the desire to name an antagonist, be it the Chinese Communist Party or Donald Trump, disregards the many aspects of 21st-century life that made the pandemic possible: humanity’s relentless expansion into wild spaces; soaring levels of air travel; chronic underfunding of public health; a just-in-time economy that runs on fragile supply chains; health-care systems that yoke medical care to employment; social networks that rapidly spread misinformation; the devaluation of expertise; the marginalization of the elderly; and centuries of structural racism that impoverished the health of minorities and indigenous groups. It may be easier to believe that the coronavirus was deliberately unleashed than to accept the harsher truth that we built a world that was prone to it, but not ready for it.

I though this article was going to be a lot more depressing than it turned out to be. I think the US has a long way to go (and indeed, the headline on the main Buzzfeed news page reads like this: Contact Tracing Could Help Stop The Coronavirus. The US Might Blow It. There is some hope, but not enough (or a lot). Let’s just not give up and let’s keep fighting.

Links from the Before Time:

A truly excellent article from 2014 and it made a very interesting read, considering the flightless world we’re currently living in as well as our uncertain future. Spend some time remembering what it was like to fly (but never this nicely).

Your moment of calm:

Seven swans a swimming
Rachel Kramer: Seven swans a swimming