The Monday Kickoff

Kick off your week with set of links on a variety of topics, served fresh each Monday

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Have you ever had one of those weeks? The kind that grinds you down not because of one or more big things, but a lot of little things that sap your physical and psychic energy? Which crush your creativity and your motivation like a tomato on the receiving end of an anvil drop? That was the last seven days for me. All of that might have slowed me down, but it's not going to stop me. We all, as the song says, have to keep on keeping on.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Politics

Ego and Impulse Have Always Been a Threat to Democracy, wherein Ingrid Rossellini walks us through the meaning of politics in ancient Greece, and how the denizens of that age would be perplexed by modern politics and politicians.

Can Liberal Democracy Survive Social Media?, wherein Yascha Mounk argues that it's not social media itself that's crippling liberal democratic traditions, but rather it's the alienation so-called young digital natives are feeling towards the institutions that govern them. And us.

Among Catalan Winemakers, Separatism Uncorked, wherein Meg Bernhard wanders Spain's fiercely proud Catalan region and learns about the links the region's winemakers have to the land, and how those links help fuel the Catalan independence movement.

Writing

But What Will Your Parent Think?, wherein Morgan Jerkins muses about how much of you and your life you can (and should) put into your personal writing.

Notes on Craft, wherein we're treated to a short read that discusses what it takes to write something. And what it takes to write, and finish, that something might just surprise you.

From Star Wars to the Lord of the Rings: How to Build a World, wherein we learn about the history of world building (within literature, and without), and its importance not just to creators but to fans as well.

Various

Are we alone? The question is worthy of serious scientific study, wherein Kevin Knuth argues that a fraction of UFO sightings could indicate the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and that it's a topic worthy of open scientific inquiry, until there is a scientific consensus based on evidence rather than prior expectation or belief.

The Strange History of the “King-Pine”, wherein we discover more than we ever wanted to about the not-so-humble pineapple, and in that learning we see how that fruit became a symbol of the divine right of kings, a talisman of empire, and an object of status.

The Daring Diplomat Who Proved One Person Can Thwart an Empire, wherein we hear the tale of UN diplomat Povl Bang-Jensen who championed refugees from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and, in doing so, had his reputation destroyed and at the same time saved the reputation of the United Nations.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Would you believe that The Monday Kickoff was originally planned to be an email newsletter? I had a newsletter a few years ago, which I distributed using a service called TinyLetter. The problem was that I grew uncomfortable with collecting peoples' email addresses (even though I did nothing with them), and having that information collected by a third party. So a blog-ish website made the most sense.

So, there you go. Another small piece of this story ...

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Asia

Lost: Struggling to cope with millions of unclaimed items in Tokyo, wherein we enter, however briefly, Japan's world of lost items and learn how they're lost and what happens to those items.

He was one of millions of Chinese seniors growing old alone. So he put himself up for adoption, wherein we learn about growing old in China and how young people have abandoned the old model, but the government had yet to find a new system for senior care, creating a crisis in the care of the elderly.

This Boy From Mumbai Became the World’s Unlikeliest Crossword King, wherein we're regaled with the story of Mangesh Ghogre, who cracked the intricacies of the design of American crossword puzzles. All without ever having set foot in the States.

Technology

The Digital Poorhouse, wherein Jacob Wisberg explores two books on the uses and abuses of algorithms, which describe how certain ones have hurt the poor and disadvantaged, and one of which offers a potential solution: ethical compunction rather than more data and better mining of it.

Ignore the hype over big tech. Its products are mostly useless, wherein we're treated to a contrarian view of consumer technology: that most recent advances are products and services that we really don't need.

Are You Really the Product? The History of a Dangerous Idea, wherein Will Oremus looks at a not-so-new idea — that if you don't pay for a service, your data is the product — and presents a contrarian take on the idea.

Taking Things to Extremes

The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver, wherein we enter the world of the professional deep-sea divers who spend days or weeks living in giant tin cans, and the mental and physical pressures they face while working at depth.

The Wisdom of Running a 2,189-Mile Marathon, wherein we learn what drives extreme endurance athletes, what keeps them going, and what can stop them in their tracks.

Chasing an Impossible Storm, wherein Brantley Hargrove recounts the last minutes of the life of storm chaser Tim Samaras, who went out doing what he loved most.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

2018 has been a slow, reserved year for me. That's by design. I needed some time to pull back, to recharge, and to rethink. I'm slowly ramping things up, and The Monday Kickoff was the first part of that process.

I'm also working on a new project. It's not earth shaking, but I think it could be useful and interesting. Keep an eye on Mastodon, Twitter, and this space for details.

With that out of the way, let's get this Monday started with these links:

Science

New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning, wherein we're exposed to a concept called instruction bottleneck and how that might be the key to better, more advanced machine learning.

Fahrenheit 2017, wherein we read about the 2017 Thomas Fire, which devastated a swath of California, and learn of the human toll the disaster took on Ventura county.

We Depend On Plastic. Now, We’re Drowning in It, wherein we discover the dangers of microplastics in the world's oceans, and how they became that danger — not just to the oceans themselves but to life of all sizes in those oceans and, by extension, us.

Arts and Literature

The First Film Ever Streamed on the Internet is Kind of Crazy, wherein Wax, a very strange and very disjointed piece of cinema, is given both a critical and popular re-examination. Kind of crazy indeed ...

When the Movies Went West, wherein we learn how, almost by accident, early American filmmakers migrated to California and how the first seeds of what grew to become Hollywood were sown.

Bibliomaniacs in Battersea, wherein we get a guided glimpse at the strange and sometimes wonderful world of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association Rare Books Fair and into the world of book collectors who don't necessarily collect books in order to read them.

Crime

Deadly Chinese Fentanyl Is Creating a New Era of Drug Kingpins, wherein we learn about the new global drug trade through the story of Yan Xiaobing, an unassmuing chemicals distributor in China who the U.S. Justice Department has indicted on charges trafficking various drug analogues.

“I Killed Them All.” The Life Of One Of America’s Bloodiest Hitmen, wherein we discover the exploits and motivations of Jose Martinez, a ruthless yet personable contract killer responsible for dozens of murders across 12 U.S. states.

How Britain let Russia launder its dirty money, wherein we learn how huge sums of Russian money is laundered in the UK, they reasons why, and why it's allowed to continue.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

As you may or may not know, I host this site on Write.as. Over the last few weeks, I've had several people ask why I use Write.as instead of WordPress since WordPress is better. I've used WordPress extensively in the past and it's good. Very good. But having more features doesn't make something better. I went with Write.as because of its simplicity, because of its minimalism. In that way, Write.as is better. At least for me and my purposes.

With that out of the way, let's get this Monday started with these links:

Arts and Literature

How communist Bulgaria became a leader in tech and sci-fi, wherein we hear the tale of Bulgaria's rise to being the IT hub of the former Eastern Bloc, and how that spawned works of science fiction that mixed the technological with the philosophical and satirical.

How LA Became a Destination on the Rare Book Trail, wherein we're regaled with a tale of two booksellers in Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s, a time when the book trade was anything but staid and dull.

Exquisite Rot: Spalted Wood and the Lost Art of Intarsia, wherein we're exposed to the true beauty of the woodworking discipline of intarsia, and the natural processes that make it so unique.

Science

We Depend On Plastic. Now, We’re Drowning in It, wherein we discover the dangers of microplastics in the world's oceans, and how they became that danger — not just to the oceans themselves but to life of all sizes in those oceans and, by extension, us.

Solid or Liquid? Physicists Redefine States of Matter, wherein we discover the very subtle differences between the two, and what those differences involve.

Fahrenheit 2017, wherein we read about the 2017 Thomas Fire, which devastated a swath of California, and learn of the human toll the disaster took on Ventura county.

Various

He was one of millions of Chinese seniors growing old alone. So he put himself up for adoption, wherein we learn about growing old in China and how young people have abandoned the old model, but the government had yet to find a new system for senior care , creating a crisis in the care of the elderly.

The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver, wherein we learn about the professional deep-sea divers who spend days or weeks living in giant tin cans, and the mental and physical pressures they face while working at depth.

8 Tips to Improve Your Handwriting, wherein those of us with horrible penmanship (a group that includes me) get some solid advice and some exercises to help make our scrawls more legible.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Confession time: I don't read much, if any, news these days. That's difficult for someone with a degree in journalism to admit, especially in public. To be honest, most news these days either depresses me or bores the you-know-what out of me.

It's not that I'm trying to insulate myself from everything that's going on in the world. Far from it. The news ... well, it doesn't capture my imagination any more. Instead, I take comfort (on many levels) in reading what I share with you each Monday. It might not be news, but those article look at topics that interest me and which I care about. And in a depth that we don't get from the news.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Ideas

The Long Game of Creativity: If You Haven't Created a Masterpiece at 30, You're Not a Failure, wherein we learn that we don't necessarily have our best ideas when we're young, and that creativity often needs time to percolate.

Post-Authenticity and the Ironic Truths of Meme Culture, wherein we get a lesson in modern media. And it's a harsh, sometimes depressing, lesson at that.

Pay for your words, wherein Peter Pomeratsev explores what he calls the real nightmare of social media: that the firms culling our data from those platforms know more about us than we realize about ourselves.

Science

An Ice Fountain Brings Water to the Himalayan Desert, wherein we hear the story how (and why) engineer Sonam Wangchuk used ice stupas to bring water to a remote and arid Himalayan village, and how (and why) he wants to do that elsewhere in the world.

How Complex Networks Explode with Growth, wherein we learn about how fragile, rather than robust, complex networks become as they grow, and how the physics of coffee can help detect problems in those networks before they blow up.

My Adventures With the Trip Doctors, wherein we discover the potential and promise of using certain psychedelics to treat mental health issues, and the obstacles that lie in the path of therapists who advocate that therapy.

Various

In defense of being average, wherein Mark Manson argues that being exceptional isn't the new normal, and that not being extraordinary doesn't mean you're worthless.

The Doting Father Who Robbed Armored Cars, wherein we learn part of the story about an seemingly ambitious, upstanding man who was allegedly the mastermind behind a string of brutal armoured car robberies in Houston, Texas.

James Fallows on the Reinvention of America, wherein the writer for The Atlantic argues that the United States is moving toward becoming a better version of itself faster than most Americans realize.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

Can't believe I turned 51 last week. It's been a blur, this thing call my life. A lot of good mixed with quite a bit of OK, and some bad thrown in there just to keep me on my toes. I have to say, though, that I have fewer than six regrets in my life and none of them major or potentially life altering. Not bad ...

Enough of that. Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Various

The Apology Tour, wherein writer Jonny Auping chronicles his efforts to make amends with everyone he's slighted over the years, and their (and his) reactions to that effort.

Hōshi: A Short Documentary on the 1300-Year-Old Hotel Run by the Same Japanese Family for 46 Generations, wherein we learn about the second oldest hotel in the world, located in Komatsu, Japan, and the struggles of the owners to maintain the family tradition in the face of one younger member who wants to go her own way.

Twitter threats: shocking – but no longer shocking, wherein Stig Abell argues that social media companies really need to do more to protect their users from abuse.

Writing

10 Things You Should Avoid as a New Writer, wherein some traps neophyte writers can fall into are exposed, and how and why you should dodge them.

5 Formulas To Write 500 Words A Day, wherein we learn some solid strategies that can help you build and maintain a writing habit.

Forget Storytelling, wherein entrepreneur Nate Kontny points out that you don't always need to tell a story with everything you do, and that the storytelling mindset can hold you back.

Productivity

Mental Resiliency: Letting Go of the Guilt of Not Getting Things Done, wherein Leo Babauta explains that not being hyper-productive isn't a bad thing and that you shouldn't beat yourself up if you're not.

4 Tips to Quit Multitasking and Focus on Getting More Done, wherein we learn that multitasking doesn't work and a few strategies that can help us focus on one task at a time.

How to Achieve Your Goals with Any Task Management System, wherein we learn something I've been saying for years: you are the key to achieving your goals and getting things done, not some app or software or high-end notebook and pen.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

And it's been quite an interesting week of reading. I've been immersed in a heady, fascinating, and sometimes disheartening mix of prose. Some of it I found hard to believe (though I should know better by now), and the rest I just had to nod my head in agreement with.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Business

In Racine County, neatly maintained homes and dream houses are being designated ‘blighted’ to make way for Foxconn, wherein we hear the sickening tale of a local government in Wisconsin conspiring to drive people out of their homes to make way for a factory being built by a Taiwanese electronics maker.

The spectacular power of Big Lens, wherein we discover how concentrated the power has become in the global eyeware business, and how cutthroat that business can be.

For Amusement Only: the life and death of the American arcade, wherein Laura June chronicles the emergence of the video game arcade in the 1970s, and that institution's sudden, brutal crash in 1983.

Ideas

Escape the echo chamber, wherein we learn about epistemic bubbles and echo chambers, their differences and dangers, and how to get out of those bubbles and chambers (or avoid sliding into them).

Reading Das Kapital as a Victorian crime novel, wherein we learn that Marx's viewpoint and sympathies were reflected in the novels of his time, and that we can read Das Kapital not as an economic tome but as a perverse and yet uncompromising piece of crime fiction.

Databodies in Codespace, wherein we learn about the Human Project, a (creepy, to be honest) 20-year project to quantify the human condition by collecting data about all aspects of the lives of a group of volunteers.

Technology

Dear Developer, The Web Isn't About You, wherein web developer Charlie Owen explains the history of the web and why using the so-called latest and greatest web technologies doesn't always provide the best user experience.

From USENET to Facebook: The second time as farce, wherein we learn that what's new is old again, and that the problems we see in social media aren't anything new. They've been with us since almost the dawn of the internet. But there is a solution: consistent moderation.

Palantir Knows Everything About You, wherein we learn about how a somewhat notorious tech company operates, how much data they're helping authorities and businesses gather, and how some of that data is being used. Yep, it's scarier and creepier than you might believe.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

It's hard to believe that another month is just about to close up shop. That tempus do fugit, and I often wonder where it goes when it's gone.

There are few better ways, though, to spend your time than with some good reads. With that in mind, let's get this Monday started with these links:

Ideas

Who Killed Tolstoy, wherein during a Tolstoy conference, scholar Elif Batuman ponders whether the great Russian author died of illness in Astipovo or was poisoned by someone close to him.

Dry, The Beloved Country, wherein we learn that the drought in Cape Town, South Africa has evolved beyond being a climate crisis. It's a social experiment that's forcing people to change their attitudes and outlooks about ... well, everything.

Are the JFK Conspiracies Slowly Dying?, wherein we learn why conspiracy theories seem to linger long past their use-by dates, and why interest in JFK assassination theories appears to be petering out.

Open Source

Some Open Truism, wherein my buddy Dr. Bryan Behrenshausen reflects on Foundations of an Open Source World, the course he taught at Duke University in late 2017.

Public Domain Is Not Open Source, wherein we learn that the two terms mean very different things and why we should never use them as synonyms.

e-NABLE: Open technology, faster progress, wherein over the space of about nine minutes we witness how open source can change the lives of children with missing limbs, the lives of their loved ones, and the lives of the people involved in a project called E-Nable.

Various

Duel in the Sun, wherein we relive the gripping duel for running supremacy between Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar at the 1982 Boston Marathon.

Never Solved, a College Dorm Fire Has Become One Man’s Obsession, wherein we witness a seemingly quixotic quest to try to exorcise a demon from his past, and perhaps gain some peace for the victims of a tragedy (and their loved ones).

Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry, wherein we enter a world where hired actors slip into the lives of the lonely and lost, and how their presence (and sometimes counsel) can change those lives.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

I often quote Bill Murray playing Hunter S. Thompson in the movie Where the Buffalo Roam by saying It still hasn't gotten weird enough for me. That doesn't mean life is boring. It definitely doesn't have to be. Life can be an interesting mix, much like what I've been reading these past few weeks.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Writing

There Are More Than Six Ways to Tell a Story, wherein writer Matthew Baker thumbs his nose at an AI's contention that stories rely on six major emotional trajectories, and explains the techniques he used to write his latest short story collection.

This Is What It Was Like Learning To Report Before Fake News Was The Biggest Problem In The World, wherein a now-seasoned journalist takes a look back at his on-the-job education — warts, mistakes, missteps, and all.

How Do We Write Now, wherein we learn how one writer breaks the shackles of distraction to start, and finish, her work.

Politics and Finance

The junhu and the art of everyday politics in Imperial China, wherein get a glimpse of how military households (called junhu) operated in Ming dynasty China, and how they helped hasten the decline of that dynasty.

Bitcoin: Mt. Gox Villain Mark Karpeles's Surprise Redemption, wherein we learn a bit more about the story behind the collapse of the largest bitcoin exchange, and how the fallout from that collapse is still happy slapping the exchange's former CEO.

1968: When the Communist Party Stopped a French Revolution, wherein we discover how divided the factions on the left wanting change truly were in that year, how those divisions scuttled a potential revolution, and how the failure of that revolution changed French politics in the decades that followed.

Ideas

The Dawn of Dining, wherein we're treated to a short history of the concept of dinner. It's actually a lot more fascinating than it sounds.

Made in Taiwan? How a Frenchman Fooled 18th-Century London, wherein we hear the story of a mysterious individual who briefly enchanted London society with tales of manners, language, ritual, and cannibalism from a far-off land that didn't exist.

The Prequel Boom, wherein Adam Kotsko examines why studios keep doing prequels if fans hate them and why fans hate them so much in the first place. Yet no matter how much they whine, those fans still pay money to see those prequels.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I've found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

To be honest, I can't think of anything interesting or profound or especially pithy to introduce this week's kickoff. So I'm not going to try. Instead, let's get this Monday started with these links:

Arts and Literature

Crime and the City: Seoul and Pyongyang, wherein we get a look into some of the better crime fiction rooted in the Land of the Morning Calm, and which takes place in the capitals of both Koreas.

200 Years of Frankenstein On Stage and Onscreen, wherein we get a short history of Mary Shelley's classic in the visual media and how that book became inseparable from its film incarnation.

‘Drawing Is Always a Struggle’: An Interview with Art Spiegelman, wherein the celebrated artist and writer discusses his work and a creative process that doesn't always cooperate or make his professional life easy.

Science

Kurt Gödel and the mechanization of mathematics, wherein we learn about the intersection of mathematics and metaphysics and philosophy in the work of German mathematician Kurt Gödel.

Feathered, Furred or Coloured, wherein Francis Gooding reviews Palaeoart by Zoë Lescaze and reveals modern society's long-standing fascination and unease with extinct reptiles.

How to hunt a giant sloth – according to ancient human footprints, wherein we learn how our ancestors managed to stalk, and take down, big, scary mammals using only basic tools and misdirection.

Writing

Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction, wherein we're treated to a very detailed tutorial on how to write very short pieces of fiction. There are a few lessons in writing tightly for non-fiction writers in there, too.

Plain Language is For Everyone, Including Experts, wherein we learn a valuable lesson about using clear language when writing: it benefits both consumers and organizations.

How Not to Kill Each Other: A Writer’s Guide to Collaboration, wherein we learn that writing isn't always a solo effort, that collaborating with other writers can be tough, and that there are strategies for making the collaboration work.

And that's it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt


If you enjoy The Monday Kickoff, please consider supporting it by buying me a coffee, or making a micropayment via Liberapay or PayPal. Even if you don't, I'll keep doing this. Your support (even if you just read this space) is appreciated!


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.