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.

What happened in Christchurch last Friday still leaves me numb. I'm not going to go on about that at length in this space. What I'm feeling is still a bit too raw.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Ideas

Journeys of Reverence: A daughter and mother's decades on the Shikoku henro pilgrimage, wherein Catherine Ludvik recounts the times she and her mother undertook the 88 temples pilgrimage in Japan, and what they learned about Buddhism, themselves, and their fellow pilgrims.

Are We Approaching Peak Stuff?, wherein we listen to the debate about whether or not we've reached the apex of consumption, and how technological progress and efficiency gains sometimes lead, counterintuitively, to more consumption rather than less.

Learning from Weirdos, wherein, through the lens of a review of the book Outsider Theory, we learn how outsiders can come to shape the literary and cultural worlds.

Technology

The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire, wherein Brian Phillips laments what the online world has become and how our jadedness towards the internet is really a form of grief.

How Cartographers for the U.S. Military Inadvertently Created a House of Horrors in South Africa, wherein we learn how a mistake with technology — combined with an unwarranted sense that we know more, and to a higher degree of certainty, than we actually do — made a Pretoria home the nexus of (false) claims of criminal activity.

“The Linux of social media”—How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging, wherein we learn about the origins of the pioneering blogging platform, its growing pains, and how it entered its terminal decline.

Business

This is What Happens When You Sue Your Boss, wherein we delve into the weird and wacky world of employer/employee arbitration, and see that it can be as much farce as it is cutting costs and legal fees.

Dirty dealing in the $175 billion Amazon Marketplace, wherein we enter the world of professional sellers on Amazon, and discover how quickly they can lose their livelihoods due to the actions of ruthless competitiors, to unforgiving algorithms, and to an inflexible set of rules.

Fracking Incarnate, wherein we hear the tale of the rise and fall of Aubrey McClendon, a grifter in the fracking game, and learn how companies like his could cause the next financial meltdown.

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

Scott Nesbitt


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain. CC0

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.

This week, I've done something I try to avoid: I've doubled up on articles from certain publications. Why? What I've read stuck with me and I couldn't wait to share it with you.

And speaking of sharing, if you haven't already done so, why not subscribe to my weekly newsletter? Or if you have subscribed, please feel free to recommend it to a friend or a colleague.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Science

The Brain Maps Out Ideas and Memories Like Spaces, wherein we learn about grid cells, which help our brains map space and aid us in navigating better and improve our spatial awareness, and which may help us learn faster, process information better, and more.

The Magnetic North Pole's Mysterious Journey Across the Arctic, wherein we're shown how and why Earth's magnetic pole is shifting, and the effect that shift can have.

Foundations Built for a General Theory of Neural Networks, wherein we discover that teaching a machine neural network is a trial and error process, and how researchers are trying to make it less so.

Writing

My Year of Writing Anonymously, wherein Stacey D'Erasmo descirbes how writing under a pseudonym changed her as a writer, while she explains why people write under false names.

American Ghostwriter, wherein journalist Sean Patrick Cooper delves into the new world of vanity ghostwriting, and examines the effect that mini literary industries like that will have on writing and journalism.

Is Line Editing Dead?, whherein we're introduced to a type of editing that seems to be fading away, and learn how it can be the most important edit a writer gets.

Odds and Ends

Exxon Had Some Insane Visions for Saving the Planet, wherein Asaf Shalev briefly examines the handful of ideas that the petroleum company concocted in the late 1990s to combat climate change (something the firm was officially skeptical about).

The Plot Against the Principality of Sealand, wherein we learn a bit about the history of the (in)famous micronation, about some machinations against it, and about the government in exile (and global scams) that those machinations spawned.

The Mysterious Life (and Death) of Africa's Oldest Trees, wherein we're introduced to the life-giving and revered baobab tree, how they seem to be dying, and how that loss will effect the people who rely upon and revere those trees.

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

Scott Nesbitt


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.

Another month bites the dust, which means another month has started. It's funny how that cycle plays out, isn't it. With a new month comes (I hope) new opportunities. If they present themselves, grab them and don't let go.

And to start the new month, The Monday Kickoff has a slightly new look. I hope you like it.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Technology and Society

404 Page Not Found, wherein Kate Wagner contrasts the web of the 1990s with that of today, and how the web of those pioneering times was, and could still be, an antidote to today's corporate-dominated web.

The nature of the self in the digital age, wherein Aral Balkan examines the relationship between us, technology, our data, and the firms that harvest the data, and comes to some chilling conclusions.

Childhood's End, wherein George Dyson ponders how digital computers have come to dominate the analog computers that are our brains.

Business

Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto's Nouveau Riche, wherein we get to accompany Laurie Penny on a creepy but oddly fascinating cruise with the evangelists and hucksters trying to create, sell, and profit from a future in which the centerpiece is cryptocurrency.

Until The Next Crash, wherein we get an analysis of the 2008 financial crisis, an analysis which looks at the event from the angle of macrofinance and which presents a surprise or two.

Inside Wisconsin’s Disastrous $4.5 Billion Deal With Foxconn, wherein we learn a few more deatails about the debacle that's the Taiwanese tech giant's highly-touted complex in Wisconsin, and see how yet another corporation is benefitting from government largesse without giving a whole lot back.

Arts and Literature

The 'Future Book' Is Here, but It's Not What We Expected, wherein Craig Mod explains that there is no one vision or example of the ultimate digital book, and how the so-called future book could truly be multimedia.

Dawn of Dianetics: L. Ron Hubbard, John W. Campbell, and the Origins of Scientology, wherein we get a glimpse into the early days of Dianetics, and how some of the leading lights of the science fiction community at the time helped L. Ron Hubbard give birth to it and, later, Scientology.

Is Listening to a Book the Same Thing as Reading It?, wherein we discover that the answer to that question is not as cut-and-dry as it seems, and that listening to and reading a book have their benefits and drawbacks.

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

Scott Nesbitt


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.

Instead of me nattering on about something pointless, let's get this Monday started with these links:

Crime

The French Burglar Who Pulled Off His Generation’s Biggest Art Heist, wherein we're regaled the tale of Vjeran Tomic, a French second-storey man with an eye for, and love of, fine art, both of which pushed him to pull off a daring heist.

The $100 Million Bot Heist, wherein we learn how a wily Russian hacker and his associates were able to use a massive botnet to steal millions, and how U.S. law enforcement slowed them down.

The Desperado, wherein we discover why Edward Averill decided to rob a bank in Austin, Texas and what that act illuminates about the American medical, social services, and justice systems.

Ideas

Why the Enlightenment was not the age of reason, wherein Henry Martyn Lloyd argues that the Enlightenment wasn't the triumph of reason over passion that we've been taught it was, and that it actually was a triumphs of passionate reason over brute passion.

The Psychology of Code-Breaking: 100-Year-Old Insight from Cryptography Pioneers William and Elizebeth Friedman, wherein we learn, through the work of two legendary cryptanalysts, and about the qualities that make a top-notch codebreaker (and code maker).

I Hate to Wait: On Jason Farman’s “Delayed Response: The Art of Waiting from the Ancient to the Instant World”, wherein we learn that impatience isn't something new, and that to truly be in touch with ourselves and what we're doing, waiting is sometimes essential.

Odds and Ends

Mr. Wu, wherein Pallavi Aiyar roucounts her time living in a Beijing hutong, and her encounter, 10 years later, with her enigmatic former landlord.

I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America, wherein Lauren Hough recounts some of the shocking, infurating, and plain strange things she saw while working the physically and emotionally grinding job of cable technician.

What’s Wrong with Bananas, wherein we learn how selective breeding, industrial farming, and the demand for physical uniformity has put the popular fruit at risk of dying out.

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

Scott Nesbitt


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.

This week's reads were a lot easier to pick. Why? Some of the subjects were on my mind, while others jumped straight out at me off the screen. Well, not in a 3D sort of way ...

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

History and Archaeology

Do civilisations collapse?, wherein we learn that we might need to revise the way in which we think about how states and civilizations decline and peter out.

Axes of Evil, wherein we learn how a deadly incident involving a poplar tree at the Korean DMZ prompted a response that could have developed into something even more tragic.

Mesmerising Science: The Franklin Commission and the Modern Clinical Trial, wherein we join Benjamin Franklin in 1874 Paris as he leads an investigation into animal magnetism and it's most famed (and infamous) proponent Anton Mesmer.

Arts and Literature

What Was Virginia Woolf Looking for in the Night Sky?, wherein we learn of the author's fascination with stargazing, and how that fascination bled into her writing.

A good bookshop is not just about the books – at last we realise that, wherein Sian Cain explains that an independent bookshop is more than a place to buy the latest bestseller — they're agents of culture rather than just instruments of commerce.

How the CIA Helped Shape the Creative Writing Scene in America, wherein we get a glimpse into how conservative, and later CIA, support for the Iowa Writer's Workshop churned out a couple of generations of writers whose work was used to battle Communism.

Ideas

Tools Are Not Skills, wherein we're reminded of something I've been saying for years: the cultivation of skills in pursuit of mastery of one’s craft is a worthwhile goal in itself.

Why Is Japan Still So Attached to Paper?, wherein Nikil Saval explores why one of the world's most technologically-advanced nations still embraces a millenia-old way of recording and sharing information.

The Rise and Fall of the English Sentence, wherein we're treated to an analysis of complexity in both written and spoken language, and learn why sentences in English have gradually become less complex.

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

Scott Nesbitt


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've been overwhelmed with fascinating articles to read over the last couple or three weeks. It's been hard to choose between everything that's passed before my eyes but I hope you find this week's collection of links worth reading.

And if you haven't already, please consider subscribing to my newsletter Weekly Musings. Thanks!

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Technology

My advice after a year without tech: rewild yourself, wherein Mark Boyle explains why he chose to live without modern technology, and what you can do to make that tech a less pervasive presence in your life.

Suriname community uses new open-source app to preserve storytelling traditions, wherein we learn how groups are using open source technologies to preserve the oral histories and traditions of the Matawai people.

How a Phone Glitch Sparked a Teenage Riot, wherein we hear the tale of how a group of Swedish teens in the 1980s found a way to create their own chat lines using a flaw in the country's telephone system, how a mass gathering organized that way went awry, and how that led to a shift in Swedish society.

Business

Will Amazon Finally Kill New York?, wherein Rebecca McCarthy looks at the issues surrounding Amazon's new headquarters in New York City through the lens of the book Seasonal Associate, and examins how that move heralds scary changes to the notions of how we'll work in the future.

MacKenzie Bezos and the Myth of the Lone Genius Founder, wherein we learn that a successful startup is successful not (just) because of its founder but due to the often-unseen efforts of the people working with and under that founder.

How the Market Abandoned Morality, wherein we're (re)introduced to the problems caused by free markets, and how a return to ethics in policymaking might be able to help fix those problems.

Politics

The Second Half of Watergate Was Bigger, Worse, and Forgotten By the Public, wherein we learn of the events that led to the U.S. enacting sweeping corporate anti-bribery laws in the 1970s, and how those laws hardened into a misguided policy.

When Is a Meme a Foreign-Influence Operation?, wherein we discover how Russia, using accounts on Facebook, targeted black Americans in the run up to the 2016 presidential election, and how they were able to do so with impunity.

The Pirate Radio Broadcaster Who Occupied Alcatraz and Terrified the FBI, wherein we learn about John Trudell, who used the power of (pirate) radio to advocate politically for Native Americans and in doing so changed the face of activism.

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

Scott Nesbitt


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.

Another month down, another month starts. And we're into a strange one — a month that's shorter than the rest, and which is usually one of the coldest (for those in the northern hemisphere) or one of the hottest (for those of us below the equator). February is also a month during which strange and interesting things happen. It should be fascinating to watch how the month unfolds.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Arts and Literature

Mistress of a New World: Early Science Fiction in Europe’s “Age of Discovery”, wherein we explore the novel The Blazing World in which its author, Margaret Cavendish, laid down the basic template for future works of speculative fiction.

Remember Me on This Computer, wherein A. S. Hamrah recounts his career as a film critic, and examines what's wrong with today's world of film criticism.

James Baldwin and the Lost Giovanni’s Room Screenplay, wherein we learn about the decades-long struggle to bring James Baldwin's nove to the screen, a struggle that continues to this day.

Crime

Blood Cries Out, wherein we learn the story of a murder in 1990 that still divides a town in Missouri and the efforts to free the man wrongly accused of committing that murder.

The unbelievable tale of a fake hitman, a kill list, a darknet vigilante... and a murder, wherein we hear the tale of how a technologist took down a scamming murder-for-hire site on the so-called dark web, and what happened after that.

The Man Who Cracked the Lottery, wherein we discover how, via a network of friends and acquaintances, how Eddie Tipton managed to defraud the Hot Lotto lottery of millions.

Productivity

A More Deliberate Way of Living, wherein Leo Babauta shares nine tips, all of them simple and effective, that can help us maneuver through the chaos and demands of everyday life.

Attention is not a resource but a way of being alive to the world, wherein we discover that the concept of attention goes far deeper than what the merchants of the so-called attention economy are peddling.

How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation, wherein we learn how a skewed work ethic, a glorification of hyper productivity, and a radically-changed job market is ruining a generation.

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

Scott Nesbitt


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 Auckland Anniversary day (yes, that's really a thing), but that doesn't have anything to do with this week's reading. I just wanted to share that with you. And to show you that even on a public holiday, I'm not slacking off!

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Ideas

Material Intelligence, wherein we're encouraged to learn more about the physical objects around us — not just manufactured ones, but ones in nature too.

What does it mean to be ‘moved’ by something?, wherein Matthew Parris ruminates on those moments that, out of nowhere, profoundly (and often momentarily) touch us in ways we don't expect them to.

What War of the Worlds did, wherein Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey reflects on the infamous 1938 radio braodcast and analyzes its parallels with the fake news of today.

Writing

Does Great Writing Require Solitude?, wherein, via a series of emails, three writers try to answer that question, but also reveal some things about themselves and about the way they approach their craft.

Writing to Avoid Erasure, wherein Amir Mrjoian explains how his Armenian heritage has influenced and informed his choices as a writer of both fiction and essays.

Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us, wherein Ruth Whippman refflects on life as a freelance writer and how turning to freelance work and the so-called gig economy is, for many, a necessity in order to eat.

Odds and Ends

Bohemian Rhapsody in Five Acts, wherein Tiffany Murray shares some of her memories as a (then) seven year old when the rock band Queen rehearsed at her family home in the English countryside.

Students Want to Write Well; We Don’t Let Them, wherein, framed by the inflexible way that students are taught to write, we're reminded of how rigid, too-narrowly-focused, and grinding the U.S. education system has become.

Selling Vintage Records in Tokyo, wherein we meet Koya Abe, owner of Noah Lewis’ Records, and learn about his love of pre-rock American music and about the joys and struggles he faces peddling used vinyl in Japan.

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

Scott Nesbitt


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 we're entering week three of 2019. I don't know about you, but I'm still getting something of a 2018 vibe from the year. Not sure whether that's bad or if it's good. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Science

Digitizing the vast 'dark data' in museum fossil collections, wherein we discover how much museums hold and which we never see, and the efforts to preserve that mass of fossils to ensure scholars can continue to study the past, even if a disaster strikes.

The Concrete Jungle, wherein we discover how urban environments are jumpstarting evolution for various species of wildlife, at a rate that even biologists find astounding.

Science’s Freedom Fighters, wherein we learn that science isn't always as apolitical as we've been told it is, and how that was especially true during the Cold War.

Technology

Forget Zuckerberg: the tech giants don’t have to own the future, wherein John Harris ponders whether our technological future lies with smaller firms outside of the U.S., but only if those firms can survive and thrive.

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers, wherein Atul Gawande looks at how complex software not only frustrates doctors (and others), but also puts a dent in their productivity and forces them to work even longer hours.

Fifty years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal, wherein we're taken on a trip down computing memory lane and discover the origins of BASIC, and why and how it influence a generation of computer users.

Odds and Ends

A New Front Line, wherein we enter the worlds of modern reporters and citizen journalists, and the dangers many of them face while trying to uncover and report on stories.

Do You Even Bake, Bro?, wherein we see how (mostly male) denizens of Silicon Valley have taken the simple act of baking your own bread and turned it into both a competition and something more complex than it needs to be.

Inside the Great Electromagnetic Resistance, wherein we briefly enter the world of electrically-sensitive people, learn about their struggles, and about their fight against more wireless technology being deployed.

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

Scott Nesbitt


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.

Even though I've been living at the bottom of the world for over six years, the northern hemisphere native in me sometimes still has a hard time processing that summer can come in January. I'm not complaining, though. I don't miss the snow and sub-zero temps of a Canadian winter.

And a quick reminder about my newsletter, Weekly Musings. If you're interested in a short essay on what's captured my interest in the last seven days, you can subscribe here.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

History and Archaeology

New dates for ancient stone tools in China point to local invention of complex technology, wherein we learn of an archaeological discovery that shows how certain early tool making techniques developed in parallel between Africa and China.

Divining the Witch of York: Propaganda and Prophecy, wherein we hear the tale of 16th century sooth teller Mother Shipton, and learn a bit about why people embrace and fear prophecies.

How the Ancient Egyptian economy laid the groundwork for building the pyramids, wherein we learn about the power behind the power that enabled the pharoahs to build their monuments cum tombs.

Ideas

Slow Thought: a manifesto, wherein we learn that taking time to think and deliberate not only has a place in teh modern world, but that it's also essential.

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, wherein we explore the ideas of loneliness and solitude, which seem similar but which have entirely different meanings and connotations.

Why it is (almost) impossible to teach creativity, wherein we learn that true creativity goes beyond solving problems, and that educators need to stop stifling creativity and imagination with the results-based curricula they use.

Writing

MTA Versus MFA: On Trains as Writing Spaces, wherein Panio Gianopoulos teaches us that a noisy, crowded train can be the sanctuary that enables some writers to do the work.

Looking for a Model, wherein the legendary writer and teacher William Zinsser discusses who influenced his style as a scribe, and how he found his true writing voice when he was in his 50s.

What big data can tell us about how a book becomes a best-seller, wherein Albert-László Barabási looks at the numbers, and discusses patterns that can help determine whether or not a book will become a best seller.

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

Scott Nesbitt


The Monday Kickoff is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.