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.

Over the last few weeks I've received emails from a handful of readers, thanking me. Not (just) for these posts, but also for introducing them to new publications. I'm happy to be of service.

Let's get this Monday started with these links:

Science

The Rise of Junk Science, wherein we discover the rapidly-growing number of academic journals that publish low-quality research, and the harm that those journals do not just to the academic and scientific communities but to knowledge as a whole.

Feynman | Making the extraordinary look easy, wherein we learn a little about how the legendary physicist did what he did, and discover a bit more about his various sides (including some not-so-nice ones).

Why are we losing the wayfinding skills of our ancestors?, wherein we learn how the ability to find our way was baked into our DNA, why people lose that ability, and what happens when they do.

History

The Kentucky Miner Who Scammed Americans by Claiming He Was Hitler and Plotting a ‘Revolt’ With ‘Spaceships’, wherein we learn about William Henry Johnson, and African-American coal miner and preacher, who from 1946 to 1956 managed to convince some German Americans that he was Hitler preparing for a comeback and scammed thousands from them.

The Norwegian Attack on Heavy Water That Deprived the Nazis of the Atomic Bomb, wherein we learn about Operation Gunnerside, a move to cripple Germany's heavy water production capabilities in World War Two.

Into the Unknown, wherein we discover how Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson pushed through a desperate, deadly situation to survive in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet.

Crime

The Real-Life Bank Heist that Reads Like an Oceans 11 Sequel, wherein we learn about an audacious heist at a Buenos Aires bank, and how this seemingly perfect crime was undone by marital strife.

What to Make of Murph the Surf?, wherein we hear the story of Jack Roland Murphy, a former champion surfer and violent criminal, and his attempts to right his past wrongs.

The Malaysian Job, wherein we learn about a financial scam with its roots in Asia, but which reached around the globe — sometimes with deadly consequences, and which further tarnished the reputation of a large investment bank.

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:

Space

Reflections on Project Orion, wherein physicist Jeremy Bernstein looks back on his participation in a project to build a spaceship driven by nuclear bombs, and shares something that Freeman Dyson (a driving force behind the project) wrote about it.

Here’s how we could mine the moon for rocket fuel, wherein we learn about some ideas to do just that, and about some of the obstacles that are in the way.

The Case Against Mars, wherein Byron Williston outlines the arguments against colonizing space, which have little to do with technology and a lot to do with humanity's lack of maturity and development.

Productivity

Can we escape from information overload? wherein Tom Lamont explores what happens when people try to cut themselves off from digital stimulation and distraction.

Want to Be More Productive? Try Doing Less, wherein Kare Northrup argues that productivity isn't about having a jam-packed to-do list, and offers some adivce about how to scale back to get more done.

How to Work Alone, wherein we get some useful tips for creating the space where intense concentration becomes easily accessible.

Odds and Ends

Why Japan is obsessed with paper, wherein we learn the whys and hows of Japan's love affair with products made from wood pulp, and why that love seems to be gradually fading away.

The Acrobatic Immigrant Who Invented Pilates in a Prisoner of War Camp, wherein we learn how Joseph Pilates used a World War One internment camp on the Isle of Man as a laboratory to develop the exercise system that bears his name.

How Japan’s global image morphed from military empire to eccentric pop-culture superpower, wherein Marc Bain examines how our view of Japan has changed over the decades, but with one constant always there: the power of the country's pop culture, and that pop culture's appeal worldwide.

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

The WW2 flying wing decades ahead of its time, wherein we learn why aeronautical engineers are still looking to the 1940s designs of the Horton brothers to create the next generation of military aircraft.

The Secret History of a Cold War Mastermind, wherein we learn about American bureaucrat Gus Weiss' highly-creative efforts to undermine the Soviet drive to acquire Western technology, including one exploit that may or may not have happened.

The Many Lives of Norman Selby, the “Real McCoy”, wherein we're introduced to Norman Selby, a boxer, entrepreneur, actor, convict, and many other things who never seemed to be able to embrace who he actually was.

Ideas

Failed States, wherein Kelly Pendergrast looks at how we lionize those who fail quickly in the tech startup world, but make pariahs of those who are existential failures.

Move Always Toward a Deepening Obscurity, wherein Philip Conners examines his love of the wilderness of New mexico, and why he's embraced the tranquility and obscurity of it.

A place of silence, wherein Liam Heneghan argues that silence and stillness are essential to human life and sanity, and that we need to adapt our cities to that idea.

Online Life

This Is the Internet We Were Promised, wherein Angela Misri argues that, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're starting to get an internet that reflects the dreams and ideals of its early, heady days in the 1990s.

Browse Minimally, wherein Ernie Smith tries to convince us that our web browsers do too much and ponders the question What if we cut things down to the bare minimum?

The Pioneer of Online Gambling, wherein we hear the story of how Steve Schillinger launched the World Sport Exchange betting site in the 1990s, 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:

Politics and Government

Time for a New Liberation?, wherein Timothy Garton-Ash reflects on the promise of the Velvet Revolutions of 1989 and how much of that promise failed to materialize.

Science fiction offers a useful way to explore China-Africa relations, wherein Nedine Moonsamy looks at some recent SF short stories published in Africa, and examines what those stories say about how Africa looks at China and its growing influence on the continent.

In Toronto, Google’s Attempt to Privatize Government Fails—For Now, wherein we learn how Google's attempt to turn a large plot of Toronto’s public land into a private lab for data collection failed, and why local governments need to focus heavily on privacy when embedding data-collecting technology in the urban landscape.

Arts and Literature

The Origins of Scandinavian Noir, wherein Wendy Lesser recounts the long history of the mystery novel in Nordic countries and how the genre evolved into its modern state.

Wait, What?, wherein Soraya Roberts explores the cognitive dissonance of western arts and entertainment awards, exemplified by the 2020 Oscar win of Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho.

How Black women are reshaping Afrofuturism, wherein Jonita Davis takes us on a journey into the Africa-centric subgenre of science fiction and introduces us to the new, female voices who are taking it into interesting realms.

Odds and Ends

America's 'fried chicken war', wherein we learn about the origins of a friendly rivalry between two Kansas families that started selling fried chicken just to survive, and whose wares still attact diners from all over.Phone Call in The Age of Coronavirus]

Phone Call in The Age of Coronavirus, wherein Marcia Aldrich ponders the differences between traditional phones and mobiles, and concludes that Cell phones have destroyed the sense of the occasion of a call.

The “Junk Mail” Men: Selling Your Data for over a Century, wherein we dip into the what's new is old again files and learn that companies were using our information to hit us with highly-targeted advertising long before the internet.

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

Cryptography Pioneer Seeks Secure Elections the Low-Tech Way, wherein Ronald Rivest (the R in the RSA cryptographic algorithm) discusses what he believes is a more secure way of voting, one in which technology takes a bit of a back seat.

Meet the Chinese operating system that’s trying to shift the country off Windows, wherein we're introduced to Unifed Operating System, a Linux distribution developed in China as part of a move to facilitate the gradual replacement of American technology in the Chinese government and pillar industries.

Hail the Maintainers, wherein Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel argue that creating new technology is all well and good, but that maintaining it is just as important, and also raise questions about the technology that we create.

Productivity

Productivity Is Not Working, wherein Laurie Penny wonders if being productive, constantly grinding and hustling, and optimizing aren't the most important things in these trying times.

How to Focus in the Age of Distraction, wherein we learn a few reasons why we get distracted so easily, and are offered some really good advice about how to fight those distractions and get things done.

On Doing Less to Produce More: A Novelist Embraces a Minimalist Lockdown, wherein we learn how a writer ignored distractions (which weren't unique to the COVID-19 lockdown) and actually managed to get more done in less time while in lockdown.

Online Life

When the Internet Was Made of Sound, wherein we take a trip down memory lane, to the days when people got online using a noisy dialup modem, and learn what each of the sounds issuing from those modems did.

My Oversubscribed Life, wherein Kelly Stout looks at the attractions of subscribing to everything material that you need in your life, and the anxiety and sheer number of problems that can cause.

When David Bowie Launched His Own Internet Service Provider: The Rise and Fall of BowieNet, wherein we get a brief history of the internet service that the singer and tech geek founded in 1998, which included a nascent social network.

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

Why Dominant Digital Platforms Need More Competition, wherein Charlotte Slaiman explains why governments need to regulate those kinds of companies to promote competition on and against dominant digital platforms.

Paul Samuelson brought mathematical economics to the masses, wherein we learn how the economist took a complex and arcane branch of his field and made it palatable not just to his colleagues and students, but to the general public.

A Brief History of the Gig, wherein we discover that the rise of ride-hailing companies in San Francisco in the 2010s parallels the changes to the city's taxi business in the 70s and 80s, with similar (bad) effects on drivers.

Crime

Thief steals two planes with a signature and a stamp, wherein we learn how easy it can be for identity thieves to illegally take possession of large items, and discover the effects of that kind of fraud on the victims.

We're In A Golden Age Of White Collar Crime, wherein Michael Hobbes examines how the U.S. justice system has more or less given up on prosecuting white collar criminals, and what that kind of crime is more prevalent than ever.

The 19th-Century Nurse Who Was Secretly a Serial Killer, wherein we learn about Honora Kelley (aka Jane Toppan) who went from orphan to maid to nurse, who harboured a variety of resentments, and channelled that into a killing spree.

Odds and Ends

Eastern Sports and Western Bodies, wherein we learn a little about how the so-called Indian clubs became the fitness rage in England and America, then gradually disappeared.

Under a Sky Fall Full of Stars, wherein David Searcy reflects on the joys of observing the night sky using an old brass telescope.

The rise of Japan's 'super solo' culture, wherein we discover how some of the younger generation in Japan is trying to shrug off the country's traditional group mentality and do things on their own.

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:

Space

Working in the shadow space program, wherein we learn about the work of Richard Passman, a General Electric engineer who worked on several secret reconnaissance and space projects in the 1960s.

The Space Shuttle Was A Beautiful — But Terrible — Idea, wherein we learn that the Space Shuttle did not deliver on its promise of numerous low-cost launches, and hear about how the program could and should have evolved.

“Space, the final frontier”: Star Trek and the national space rhetoric of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and NASA, wherein we learn of the influence that early space policy, which itself adopted the frontier metaphor, had on the development of the classic TV series.

The Dark Side of Technology

Every Place Is the Same Now, wherein Ian Bogost laments how, thanks to technology, our homes have become something that they shouldn't really be, and have lost their original sense of purpose, creating a non place.

Lying Eyes, wherein we discover that old ideas about facial expressions, ideas which are shallow and incomplete, underlie today's facial recognition systems, and learn about that problems that bakes into those systems.

I Must Leave My House, wherein Sean Cooper, in a piece of essay fiction, takes us on a stroll through his neighbourhood in pandemic-era Philadelphia, all under the cold gaze of surveillance cameras.

Ideas

Why emojis and #hashtags should be part of language learning, wherein Heather Lotherington aruges that teachers of foreign languages should include emojis, hashtags, and other online grammars in their curricula to enable learners to lean on cross linguistic elements.

Commuting After Covid, wherein Dan Albert ponders how we'll get around inour cities once the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

Roving bandits and looted coastlines: How the global appetite for sand is fuelling a crisis, wherein we discover why the demand for sand is rising, and learn about the human and economic cost of that demand.

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:

Writing

How to Organize Your Writing, wherein Amy Holland explains why you need to organize your writing and shows you a way to do that effectively.

How to Edit Your Own Writing, wherein Harry Guinness reminds us that editing is one of the keys to good writing, and offers some excellent tips for giving your own work an editorial going over.

Writing Is Thinking, wherein Sally Kerrigan explains why writing about what you do is important, and how writing (and planning to write) can help you think about what you do more clearly.

Online Life

Small b blogging, wherein Tom Critchlow argues that you shouldn't blog for fame, fortune, and glory but instead do it to make interesting connections while also being a way to clarify and strengthen your ideas.

When the Web Was Weird, wherein we learn how the web went from flat, utilitarian pages to more dynamic designs, with some interesting steps in between.

A Text Renaissance, wherein Ventakesh Rao examines the revival (of sorts) of text as a medium for creating and publishing content online.

Ideas

We Are All Ancient Mapmakers, wherein Cody Kommers explains that the idea of a map that all of us carry around in our heads uses the same conceptual framework as the maps crafted by ancient Greek philosophers, with all the physical and cognitive limitations.

Why We Need a Working-Class Media, wherein Carla Murphy argues for a need to hear the voices of working-class people from all races and backgrounds to tell their stories and to demonstrate that they are civic participants who matter.

How New York Is Zoning Out the Human-Scale City, wherein we get a peek into the urban development process in New York City, and learn how the process is tearing the heart out of the city's neighbourhoods and its 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:

Business and Economics

This backpack has it all: Kevlar, batteries, and a federal investigation, wherein we're left to wonder whether Doug Monahan, the man behind the iBackpack crowdfunding fiasco, is an unlucky serial entrepreneur or a serial scammer.

Science for Sale, wherein we see, yet again, how corporations use mercenary scientists to pervert and deny actual science to preserve their profits at the expense of employees and consumers.

Newly Minted, wherein Gaby Del Valle argues that many of the new financial technology startups are nothing more than thinly-disguised payday lenders that target the poor and indebted.

Space

Death on Mars, wherein astrobiologist Caleb A. Scharf explains that among all the challenges facing colonists on Mars, the amount of radiation the planet is exposed to could be the biggest challenge to overcome.

A deep dive into the Apollo Guidance Computer, and the hack the saved Apollo 14, wherein we get a very close look at how the computer that took astronauts to the Moon worked, and how mission controllers got around a serious problem that could have scuttled Apollo 14's landing.

In space, no one can hear you kernel panic, wherein we learn how NASA, not willing to take chances with automated and crewed missions, included multiple redundant computer systems in its probes and spacecraft. Just in case.

History

An atomic marker hidden in plain sight, wherein we visit a section of Santa Fe, New Mexico which was the gateway to the site at which American scientists created the first atomic weapons.

How The CIA Found A Soviet Sub — Without The Soviets Knowing, wherein we learn how the American spy organization teamed up with Howard Hughes to undertake one of the great heists of the 20th century: salvaging a Soviet attack submarine from the bottom of the ocean.

Welcome to Jáchymov: the Czech town that invented the dollar, wherein we take a trip to teh town which created the unit of currency that inspired the dollar but which, ironically, doesn't accept U.S. dollars.

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:

Ideas

If you can read this headline, you can read a novel. Here’s how to ignore your phone and just do it, wherein Judith Seaboyer argues that no matter what your age, you can learn (or relearn) how to read longer, more complex texts by setting aside a space and time to revitalise the neural pathways that once made us immersive readers

The 2010s Have Broken Our Sense Of Time, wherein Katherine Miller argues that the constant stream of information from multiple sources that's been coming at us in the last 10 years has distorted our understanding of when we are.

The Hollow Politics of Minimalism, wherein Jill Steinhauer argues that minimalism, as practiced by many today, isn't a lifestyle choice but an aspirational style — a measure of taste and an opportunity to announce your sophistication.

Technology

The New Uncanny Valley, wherein Jakub Stachurski looks at how communication has changed since moving online, and how that's affected (or not) our social lives and relationships.

How SEO Ruined the Internet, wherein we discover a few more reasons to despise Search Engine Optimization and to shun those who practice it.

The Wrong Goodbye, wherein Heather White ponders the hows and whys of email marketers trying to get us to stop unsubscribing from their messages and newsletters.

Arts and Literature

From Abacus to Zen: A Short History of Tuttle Publishing, wherein we learn a bit about the background of a publishing company that introduced Japan and aspects of Japanese langauge and culture to English-speaking readers.

Tara McLeod: A Typographic Journey, wherein we're introduced to the Kiwi typographer who decided to ply his trade not with digital tools but with a hand press from the Victorian era.

“Lights, Camera-maids, Action!”: Women Behind the Lens in Early Cinema, wherein Marsha Gordon introduces us to the forgotten female camera operators and cinematographers from the early years of the film industry in the U.S.

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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