Weekend Reading

The possibility of a little wintry weather here across southern Appalachia this weekend will keep us close to the fire with a few interesting articles at hand. Like these:

– Matthew Engel on European train travel.
In the Valley of Fear by Michael Greenberg, from which the quote in the previous post is taken.
First sun-dimming experiment will test a way to cool Earth by Jeff Tollefson.
– This is unfortunate: What Are We Like? 10 Psychology Findings That Reveal The Worst Of Human Nature by Christian Jarrett.
– Now that’s a library: Helsinki’s New Library Has 3-D Printers and Power Tools. (And Some Books, Too.)
– I like Rafael Behr’s notion of “mild tyranny,” in this article:

“It sounds like an oxymoron, and certainly not the kind of thing citizens in a democracy might choose. But when you consider the relationship many of us have with technology there is something gently tyrannical involved.”

– Meanwhile in Mexico
… and in Siberia….

Look for my monthly travel column next Monday at 3 Quarks Daily, and next week here, we’ll excerpt a couple of chapters from my book Common Sense and Whiskey. For now, enjoy the weekend. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

Another wet almost-holiday weekend in the southern Appalachians. If you’re inside, dry and trolling for a few worthy things to read, try these:

– Interesting article from 2000 titled The Last Island of the Savages: Journeying to the Andaman Islands to meet the most isolated tribe on Earth about Sentinel Island, the place that proselytizing American was recently murdered in the Andaman Islands.

– A few weeks back, my 3QD column on wildebeests addressed the mental capacity of bees, ants and termites. In Bee-Brained, two academics, Lars Chittka and Catherine Wilson, explore insects’ minds much further.

The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam by Ian Johnson.

– And finally, Sean Carroll has written a paper in which he tries to explain everything. (A timely sort of CliffNotes version from Martin Rees popped up in Prospect about the same time.)

Here’s a fun example quote from the Sean Carroll article:

“While a creator could explain the existence of our universe, we are left to explain the existence of a creator. In order to avoid explanatory regression, it is tempting to say that the creator explains its own existence, but then we can ask why the universe couldn’t have done the same thing.”

Carroll concludes that

“invoking a creator does not provide us any escape from the need to posit something that simply exists because it does, without further reasons to which we can appeal.”

That’s comforting because it means that after all, it really is turtles all the way down

Enjoy your weekend. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

Lots of folks will be traveling all across the United States next week for Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s. Here’s some weekend travel-oriented reading that takes us a little farther afield:

Finding a beer in Mauritania.
A Tiger Hunt in India, an excerpt from a new collection of essays called Impossible Owls by Brian Phillips.
– A frightening trip to the Central African Republic: Dividing Lines by Jack Losh
– Ann Cooper on covering the revolution in Lithuania as a reporter for National Public Radio.

Your science article:
– Possible reason for the precipitous drop in insect populations.

And finally, I loved this article by Tim Parks so much I bought the doorstop of a book it recommends, which has come in time for my own weekend reading. Enjoy your weekend. See you Monday.

Weekend Reading

Suggested reading for the weekend. No politics:

Border Crossings: Myths and Memories of Tolerance about the North-African Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
The Man Who Showed Us Istanbul. Orhan Pamuk remembers the photographer Ara Güler.
Ara Güler’s photography.
– The world’s oldest known intact shipwreck has been found Under the Black Sea.
Are we wrong to assume fish can’t feel pain? by Carl Safina. Also read his Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.
New definitions of scientific units are on the horizon.
A Stinging Decline. On the future of bees.
Our illusory sense of agency has a deeply important social purpose.
Why Forests Give You Awe: “nature-produced awe involves a diminished self.”

Okay, one bit of politics: The Munk Debate on Populism, a debate between David Frum and Steve Bannon, will be live-streamed here from Toronto tonight at 7:00 US eastern time. Also airing on CPAC TV in Canada and C-SPAN in the U.S., and streamed on Facebook Live.

Enjoy the weekend. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

It’s chilly and wet in our mountains just now. Suitable for an indoor weekend involving a fireplace, a large pot of slow-cooked food and good reading material.

All you can say to Francis Fukuyama these days is, history is back with a vengeance. In the U.S.:

“How conceivable is this? Trump loses the 2020 US presidential election. But he refuses to concede…. Couldn’t happen, you say. The constitution and all that. To which I would say just two words: Merrick Garland.”

It’s from The Full Machiavelli by Emrys Westacott. As a sidebar on U.S. politics, here is one of the more remarkable articles I can remember, a look at the 2016 Republican alternatives to President Trump: They Could Have Picked.

And in the U.K., is it me, or has commentary turned dark about the prospects for a Brexit deal since the P.M.’s latest scolding from Brussels? I’m talkin’ ’bout headlines like We’re Headed for a Brexit Crashout. My wife and I live in the U.S. where we are all busy looking the fool Making America Great Again, but we traveled to England and Wales the week of the Brexit vote for what we felt sure would be a repudiation of the insular, parochial small-mindedness of the leavers. It didn’t work out that way, and the 28 months since haven’t been pretty:

The U.S., naturally, reserves the right to look the biggest fool of all by affirming its course in elections in just over a week.

Enough of that, though. A few other items:

“if elephants … have all the raw mental material it takes to be persons, a time could come in the near future when we might draw them into a more expansive kind of personhood.”

The article is If elephants aren’t persons yet, could they be one day? One qualification. DO NOT follow the author’s advice to “Stand or walk among a herd of elephants.”

– About that tsunami in Sulawesi.
– How to avoid the Tourism Curse.
How would we recognise an alien if we saw one?
– And one more item for your weekend reading list, from National Geographic, a look at Antarctica’s changing ecosystem.

Have a lovely weekend. See you next week.

Weekend Reading

For your consideration this weekend:

This headline:

confirms that what Saudi rulers are considering is anything but telling the truth.

“The Saudi rulers are expected to say that General Assiri received oral authorization from Prince Mohammed to capture Mr. Khashoggi for an interrogation in Saudi Arabia, but either misunderstood his instructions or overstepped that authorization and took the dissident’s life, according to two of the people familiar with the Saudi plans.”

So, it’s all just choreography, then. A sordid little shimmy with the full, florid frames of both the United States’ secretary of state and president as dance partners. Here is your homework on MBS, as done for you by Dexter Filkins. One of those dauntingly long New Yorker articles.

– 54 University Avenue, Rangoon, may be for sale.

– I completely love this definition: “a person is … a continuum of causally related psychophysical processes that plays a role in the world.” It’s in an article titled Why There Is No Self: A Buddhist Perspective for the West from the Institute of Art and Ideas. Give yourself some time to read it slowly.

– “’You can’t out-Trump Trump,” said Terry Sullivan, a longtime Rubio adviser.’ The problem with that is after you set your hair on fire, you have to be willing to double down and keep adding gasoline to your head. And that’s not a normal human reaction to being on fire.” Here’s what that’s about.

– If you could time travel, would you travel forward or backward? Leanne Ogasawara argues for backward.

– “a glimpse into what the post-American world might look like: a chaotic stage where strongmen find themselves buffeted by Western, Arab, and Chinese forces.” Pakistan looks east.

– And finally, this would be odd: Pope will visit North Korea if officially invited.

– In travel this week, if you’re intrigued by off-the-beaten-path destinations, check out this article about China’s Nujiang valley. And you don’t see a lot of news coverage of Bhutan, but here’s a story from today’s Washington Post: In tiny Bhutan, known for its pursuit of happiness, democracy brings discontent. I’ll leave you with this link to a chapter from my book Common Sense and Whiskey. It’s about travel in Bhutan. That’s Bhutan’s capital, Thimpu, in the photo. Click it for 115 more photos from Bhutan on EarthPhotos.com.

See you next week.

Weekend Reading

Last Friday brought portents of a storm, and this weekend inaugurates autumn in these mountains, cool and crisp and clear as can be. We’ll be spending some quality time out by the creek. That creek up there.

A few items here to consider for your weekend reading list:

– This has to catch your eye:

Britain’s underlying public finances are among the worst in the world, behind the Gambia, Uganda and Kenya, a new study has concluded.

The IMF looked at the assets and liabilities of 31 countries and found the UK was in a worse position than every other country apart from Portugal.

The report in the Independent, goes on:

This surprising conclusion came from using a different approach to the public finances to the one favoured by the government.

No kidding.

– Might as well pile on. I don’t know of Marcel Dirsus, but here, at Politico.eu, he makes good sense: Brexit is embarrassing — for the Brits – You do realize we can understand you when you talk, right?
– I’d like to believe this is a parody, but I’m afraid it’s a genuine article about a genuine thing: Afternoon at the Nap Factory by Sophie Haigney at The Baffler.
– In Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot at Nautil.us, Tom Vanderbilt posits that we tend to overestimate the importance of technological change and underestimate cultural change in predicting the future. For example, “a 1960s film of the ‘office of the future’ made on-par technological predictions (fax machines and the like), but had a glaring omission: The office had no women.”

– Out in the world this week, here’s a feature about a destination on my list, São Tomé and Príncipe from the New York Times.
– When I wrote Asmara and Addis Reconnected three months ago, it was to note a softening of relations on the Ethiopian/Eritrean border. In the spirit of the moment, which included meetings between officials of both governments, it was possible to be hopeful that prospects might improve for ordinary Eritreans. Ruth MacLean writes, in ‘It’s just slavery’: Eritrean conscripts wait in vain for freedom in the Guardian, that things haven’t turned out that way.
– A long story about murder in Iceland: The Reykjavik Confessions from BBC News.
– And finally, this guy’s just gotta go to Malta.

Have a lovely weekend by your local creek, or wherever you choose to spend it, and be sure and check 3 Quarks Daily on Monday for my monthly travel column. See you next week.