The Monday Kickoff

Start your week with nine curated reads, 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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Science

The Tyranny of Spreadsheets, wherein Tim Harford looks at the history of, and problems with, spreadsheets, and at how powerful data can be when handled well — and how much damage is done when the data are fumbled.

The End of Reductionism Could Be Nigh. Or Not., wherein we discover the conjecture of one scientist that the next big set of breakthroughs in their field might not come from breaking concepts down but by looking at bigger pictures, and why that actually might not be the case.

A biography of the pixel, the elementary particle of pictures, where Alvy Ray Smith outlines the idea of where those little bits of information that make up images come from, and argues that they are the profound and exact concept at the heart of all the images that surround us.

Technology

Windows XP turns 20: Microsoft’s rise and fall points to one thing — don’t fix what isn’t broken, wherein Erica Mealy looks at what made XP so popular and how it might have been the apex of not just Microsoft's operating system but the company's focus on its users.

Extinct, wherein Barbara Penner and Adrian Forty look at technology which, for various reasons, didn't survive and how, in pondering that technology, we encounter ghosts of futures that never came to pass.

How Software Is Eating the Car, wherein we learn about the changes to the auto industry in recent years and how software now determines the value of a car.

Space

Alien Dreams: The Surprisingly Long History of Speculation About Extraterrestrials, wherein we learn that humans have been obsessed with wondering about whether life existed off this planet for millennia.

The Red Warning Light on Richard Branson’s Space Flight, wherein we learn about some of the safety concerns at Virgin Galactic and how they're being hushed up.

Asteroid mining could pay for space exploration and adventure, wherein Martin Elvis looks at the benefits, costs, and struggles around extracting resources from the debris of the early solar system.

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Technology

Japan's love affair with the fax machine – a strange relic of technological fantasies, wherein we learn a little bit about why the fax machine has held on for so long in Japan, despite (or perhaps because of) the country's high-tech image.

An AI expert explains why it’s hard to give computers something you take for granted: Common sense, wherein we learn why artificial intelligence systems may never be able to replicate that uniquely human trait.

When Whatsapp Went Down, Brazilian Workers’ Jobs Went With It, wherein we (once again) learn the dangers of relying on a single platform and how that can hit some of the most vulnerable people hard when the platform falters or fails.

Arts and Literature

Ebooks Are an Abomination, wherein Ian Bogost tries to explain that a love — or, in their case a hate — of ebooks is probably a function of what books mean to you, and why.

You Don’t Need To Feel Guilty About Books You Haven’t Read Yet, wherein Ferrett Steinmetz explains why you can't read everything (in any genre of writing) and why that doesn't mean you're woefully unread.

The Stranger-Than-Fiction Secret History of Prog-Rock Icon Rick Wakeman, wherein we learn about the rise, the fall, and the second rise of one of rock's most flamboyant and talented keyboard players.

Ideas

Estate Planning for Humanity, wherein Jeff Hawkins suggests that creating a sustained, long-lasting signal is humanity's best way of making its presence known to the galaxy, and to detect other intelligent species in space.

Disinformation: It’s History, wherein Heidi Tworek looks at the use of analogies and how bad analogies can aid in the creation and dissemination of disinformation.

Why Is It So Hard To Be Rational?, wherein Joshua Rothman argues that being rational isn't just about making the correct choices, but that it also involves a deep understanding of when you're wrong and why.

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Online Life

How We Became Infected by Chain E-Mail, wherein Kathryn Schulz examines the history of this irrational, digital annoyance and why it's persisted as long as it has.

Inside the 'I Bought a House At 21' Clickbait Cottage Industry, wherein we discover why those types of articles are popular with publications, and why they generate such a strong backlash from online commenters.

Undercover at a troll farm, wherein we get an account of the experiences of an investigative reporter who was embedded in a company that ran misinformation campaigns linked to Polish political parties and the country's state broadcaster.

Writing

Fake it till you make it, wherein we learn how the index came about, why they cause writers and publishers so much anxiety, and why they're essential.

Field Notes of a Sentence Watcher, wherein Richard Hughes Gibson argues that books on writing may be marketed and presented as how-to manuals, they're best received as field guides.

Move over, Microsoft Word: The race to reinvent document editing, wherein we get a closer look at office productivity tools that move away from the format of the paged document and how they might be poised to help change how we process words and collaborate.

Odds and Ends

Computer Space and beyond: 50 years of gaming, wherein we learn how a multi-billion dollar industry came about thanks to a simple computer game crafted in 1971.

The World’s Most Efficient Languages, wherein John McWhorter briefly examines some of the major and minor languages spoken in the world to try to discover which ones require the fewest words to make a point.

Is This the End of Switzerland’s Chimney Sweep ‘Mafia’?, wherein we learn a bit about the history of chimney sweeping in Switzerland and how the profession, and the monopolies around it, are changing.

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

History

Hanko, wherein we learn how Japanese people came to use and, in some cases, rely on stylized seals in their daily lives and why hanko have started to fall out of favour.

The Centuries-Old Sport of Karate Finally Gets Its Due at the Olympics, wherein we learn how Japan adopted an Okinawan martial art, and the long road that art took to becoming an Olympic sport.

Before Pong, There Was Computer Space, wherein Noah Wardrip-Fruin looks at the video game that started an industry, but which never gained traction (and not because it was too complex).

Arts and Literature

Still Farther South, wherein John Tresch explores the mysteries of Edgar Allan Poe's novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket and looks at how Poe hints at the malleable nature of reality.

The Mystery of Truman Capote's Final, Lost Novel, Answered Prayers, wherein Adrienne Gaffney charts Capote's fall from (social) grace and whether the manuscript of the book he claimed to be working on before his death actual exists.

The 100-year-old fiction that predicted today, wherein we learn a bit more about the works of Karel Čapek and Yevgeny Zamyatin, and their different approaches to dystopian visions of the future.

Technology

In 2030, You Won't Own Any Gadgets, wherein Victoria Song posits a looming future in which we'll be renting/subscribing to all of the devices, software, and services that we pay for rather than owning them outright.

Does Tech Need a New Narrative?, wherein Anna Wiener looks at how the narrative in Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) has shifted from disruption to building, but to build what and for whom?

India's nostalgic passion for old typewriters, wherein we learn why these once-ubiquitous office machines are so prized in India (and it's not just nostalgia).

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Yet another month has started. I don't know about you, but I was only just getting into the groove of the last one. These monthly roll overs are coming a tad too quickly for my taste ...

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Work

How narcissists climb the career ladder quickly, wherein David Robson explains why people who aggressively promote themselves move up in the corporate world faster than their humbler, often more competent counterparts.

Why So Many People Are Unhappy in Retirement, wherein Arthur C. Brooks explores retirement from within the framework of the hero's journey and discovers that some people who go off that script rage, instead, trying to pound their lives back into the story line.

The case for a shorter workweek, wherein we learn why companies are, or should be, considering a four-day work week — for the benefit of employees and the firm.

Crime

The Fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master, wherein we get a glimpse into the rise and fall of a so-called social media influencer who led a lavish lifestyle fuelled by participation in business email compromise attacks against large institutions.

The Sopranos of Berlin: A Brutal Crime Family and a Billion Dollar Jewel Heist, wherein we learn about a brutal museum heist in Dresden, its purported link to a notorious crime family, and how the German police tried to crack the case.

The Spine Collector, wherein we learn about a literary scammer's attempts to illicitly cage unpublished manuscripts, and about the mystery of who they are and what their motivation is.

Productivity

You’re never going to finish your to-do list – and that’s fine, wherein Oliver Burkeman explains that no matter how much you do, you'll always need to do more and why it's important to focus on what’s gloriously possible instead.

The Frustration with Productivity Culture, wherein Cal Newport looks at the obsession with jumping on the productivity assembly line and ponders an alternative.

Is there a perfect productivity system?, wherein Anne-Laure Le Cunffe explains that no productivity system fits everyone and that everyone should intentionally design a system that works for them.

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Technology

The outdated machine hampering the fight against Covid-19, wherein we learn how the fax machine is still prevalent in a number of key sectors, and how reliance on that technology can slow things down (especially response to a pandemic).

Voices From The Beyond, wherein Vanessa Chang argues that artists can use vocal deep fakes to achieve something like creative immortality.

Where Would We Be Without the Paper Punch Card?, wherein we learn how a rectangle with 80 columns and 12 rows, made out of stiff paper, was the start of the data (and computing) revolution.

Online Life

The online data that's being deleted, wherein we learn why data stored on the internet vanishes, and about some of the efforts to try to preserve that information.

The ugly, geeky war for web privacy is playing out in the W3C, wherein we learn about the intense infighting among those who ostensibly are supposed to be protecting our privacy online.

The Internet Is Rotting, wherein Jonathan Zittrain looks at the online phenomenon of link rot and laments all of the information that's been lost to it.

Odds and Ends

Shock Therapy, wherein Ania Spyra recounts her first encounter with homelessness in her Polish hometown shortly after the fall of communism.

The Surprisingly Complicated History of the Frisbee, wherein we learn about the interesting genesis of the wildly popular toy, and how it evolved into the plastic disc we know and love.

The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world’s first cryptocurrency cruise ship, wherein we learn how a coterie of cryptocurrency enthusiasts and seasteaders tried to create the ideal libertarian society on a repurposed cruise ship, and how it all fell apart.

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Business and Economics

Kenya’s first smart city promised everything. 13 years on, it’s still a construction site, wherein we learn about the grand plans for Konza City, a proposed tech hub that, after almost a decade and a half years, isn't near completion, let alone close to fulfilling any of its promise.

Why most gas stations don’t make money from selling gas, wherein Zachary Crockett explains that fuel is often a loss leader for gas station owners, and that the real money is made inside the store.

Contrary to popular and academic belief, Adam Smith did not accept inequality as a necessary trade-off for a more prosperous economy, wherein Deborah Boucoyannis argues that the Scottish political economist was against the concentration of wealth, and that his work indicates that profits should be low and labor wages high.

Ideas

The Logic of Corporate Accounting Took Over Our Language, and We Hardly Noticed, wherein Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein looks at how the concept of return on investment began being applied to all aspects of our lives and how that ejected complicated, ethical negotiations for the narrow certainty of finance.

I’m a Luddite. You should be one too, wherein Jathan Sadowski explains what a Luddite actually is (and it's not what many people think), and why that's a good belief to hold.

Why is the English spelling system so weird and inconsistent?, wherein we learn that the language's strange, and often illogical, spelling and pronunciation systems came about thanks to the printed word, which came to prominence at a time when the norms linking spoken and written language were up for grabs.

Writing

Blogging is dead. Long live blogging. Or, why the Substack hype is much ado about very little, wherein Dan Kennedy argues that if you strip away the hype, the popular email newsletter platform is, in fact, just a new twist on blogging.

Notes on Craft, wherein Lauren Elkin explains the importance of keeping a journal to her writing, and how that journal has moved from being analog to one of the digital variety.

Machine writing is closer to literature’s history than you know, wherein Yohei Igarashi points out that writing done by artificial intelligence should be familiar to us since we've relied on probable language for much of human history.

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Technology

Data Relations, wherein Salomé Viljoen explains the negatives (for us, anyway) of the datafication of everything, and suggests ways to redress the balance.

How the IBM PC Won, Then Lost, the Personal Computer Market, wherein we learn how Big Blue took the nascent personal computer market by storm in the 1980s, and about the missteps that quickly sent all of that on a slide downhill.

This is how democracy dies, wherein Jamie Bartlett opines that the apocalypse will come at the weak hands of bureaucrats who refuse to question the algorithms that increasingly control everything in our lives.

Arts and Literature

The Man Who Made Black Panther Cool, wherein we learn about writer Christopher Priest, how he broke into the comics industry, bounced in and out of that industry over the decades, left an impression and yet is still unknown to many readers.

Remembering Harry O, The Seventies' Second Best, Mostly Forgotten Private Eye Series, wherein we (re)learn about the dark but surprisingly appealing detective series starring David Janssen that ran for just two season in the early 70s.

The Rise of the Crypto Writer? On What Literary NFTs Might Mean for the Book World, wherein Walker Caplan tries to make sense of the emerging space of writers trying to sell their works as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Odds and Ends

Penniless: why a Victoria man has gone two decades without money, wherein we learn how David Arthur Johnston came to renounce money and has survived since the early 2000s without it, and how his efforts help changed laws around homelessness in Victoria, BC.

The Nonmachinables, wherein we learn about the Bureau of Hards, the department of the USPS that deals with letters and parcels with addresses and other information on them that not even sophisticated scanning and recognition technology can decipher.

In defense of Scrabble, wherein Neda Marie Valcheva explains how the classic board game is an integral part of the fabric of her family.

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Arts and Literature

So You Thought You Didn’t Like Manga?, wherein we take a dive into an alternative world of Japanese illustrated storytelling, one which experiments with style of art, storytelling, and mature themes.

How NOT to Read: Learning from A Confederacy of Dunces, wherein Jessica Hooten Wilson argues that John Kennedy Toole's novel is more than a comedy: it's a cautionary tale against our penchant for misreading good books.

Walking Shadows, wherein we learn about the importance of actors to Elizabethan playwrights an how those actors influenced the work of the scribes.

Online Life

Is the Cookie Web Tracker Dying?, wherein we learn that while using cookies to track what you do on line might be in decline, more pervasive tracking technology is on the horizon.

Why every platform wants to be a super app, wherein we learn why platform tech companies in Africa are bundling multiple services into a single mobile app and the consequence it has for users.

How the cookie poisoned the Web, wherein Doc Searles outlines the (relatively benign) origin of the browser cookie and how it came to be a blight on the web.

Work

The five-day workweek is dead, wherein we discover how workers in the US are trying to follow the example of their counterparts overseas and get their employers to test drive a shorter work week.

Why worker loyalty is at a breaking point, wherein Josie Cox examines why, in a world still wracked with COVID-19, many workers are willing to quit their jobs rather than lose the flexibility of working remotely.

‘WE ALL QUIT’: How America’s Workers Are Taking Back Their Power, wherein Lauren Kaori Gurley looks at why low-wage workers in the US are quitting their jobs en masse (and it's not because of laziness or government handouts).

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

Scott Nesbitt

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.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Science

The Intelligent Forest, wherein Suzanne Simard takes us into a British Columbia forest and ponders whether tree species are linked by a network for mutual aid.

What Makes Quantum Computing So Hard to Explain?, wherein we learn that even a basic understanding of these storied devices and what they do requires a knowledge of the concepts underlying them.

How to Make Sense of Contradictory Science Papers, wherein Haixin Dang and Liam Kofi Bright explain that published scientific studies can contradict each other because publishing those studies is about saying that there is something exciting and interesting that requires further inquiry.

Ideas

Lies and honest mistakes, wherein Richard V Reeves looks at how even honest journalists and careful scholars will sometimes get things wrong.

Colonialism is built on the rubble of a false idea of ancient Rome, wherein Jamie Mackay looks at the myth of a white Rome which, over the last century and a half, underpinned the justification for the aggressive imperialism of western nations.

When Graphs Are a Matter of Life and Death, wherein we learn about the history of the line graph and how it became a key tool for making pictures from numbers which offered a portal to a much deeper connection with time and distance (and more).

Productivity

Having Your Smartphone Nearby Takes a Toll on Your Thinking, wherein we learn that the proximity of a mobile device (and not even using it) can have a negative effect on your thinking and focus.

In praise of habits – so much more than mindless reflexes, wherein we learn that while most of our daily routines seem reflexive, they actually display a great deal of intelligence.

The three-or-four-hours rule, wherein Oliver Burkeman explains why you can't do work that demands serious mental focus for more than about three or four hours a day and offers advice on how to focus on that time.

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

Scott Nesbitt

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