Weekend Reading

Terrace café in Riga, Latvia

Here are some quality recent articles. Worth your time:

‘We know we may be killed’: the rangers risking their lives for Virunga’s gorillas by Jason Burke in The Guardian. These guys who guard mountain gorillas are heroes.
India and Pakistan are quietly making nuclear war more likely by Tom Hundley at Vox.com
Can We Be Saved From Facebook? by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone
How to Meet the Strategic Challenge Posed by China by David P. Goldman at imprimis.hillsdale.edu
The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death by Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker
Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens by Rachel Botsman at wired.com

I’ll be taking a little break for the next couple of weeks, so posts here will be less frequent, but stay with me. I’ll be back.

Cheers for now.

Weekend Reading

Spring hovers in the wings. In our part of the world, in southern Appalachia, it’s the yearly fight between eager-to-bud trees and determined-to-refreeze cold fronts. If the rain holds off, we’ll head to the creek with an iPad loaded with some of these reading suggestions. Pick and choose what you might like among these fine reads and please enjoy your weekend.

The Sinn Fein question: could the party stop a hard Brexit? by Martin Fletcher at the New Statesman

Operation Gunnerside: The Norwegian attack on heavy water that deprived the Nazis of the atomic bomb by Timothy J Jorgensen at The Conversation (also entertainingly told in Lynne Olsen’s Last Hope Island)

Fat Leonard’s Crimes on the High Seas – The rise and fall of the defense contractor who bought off Navy brass with meals, liquor, women and bribes by Jesse Hyde in Rolling Stone

Disarming the Weapons of Mass Distraction by Madeleine Bunting at the NYRB blog. More on how to reclaim your attention span.

How a Fake Mountain Range Slowed Down Arctic Exploration – The 19th-century naval officer John Ross’s unfortunate imagination by Cara Giaimo at Atlas Obscura.

Headline hyperbole here, but on a longer term horizon, Parag Khanna is onto something: There’s a new secretary of state. Who cares? Sorry, Washington. The world doesn’t need you anymore at Politico.eu.

The Asset, How A Player In The Trump-Russia Scandal Led A Double Life As An American Spy by Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold at Buzzfeed. Everything about this is remarkable.

And finally, How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that’s already happened) by David Graeber and David Wengrow at Eurozine. This compliments a flurry of books and articles lately on the distant history of humans, including the articles Tools and voyages suggest that Homo erectus invented language by Daniel Everett at Aeon, Tracing the tangled tracks of humankind’s evolutionary journey by Hannah Devlin in The Guardian and How Hunter-Gatherers May Hold the Key to our Economic Future by James Suzman at evonomics, which compliments his new book Affluence Without Abundance.

Another newish book, that sets out to upend most conventional hunter-gatherer history, is Against the Grain, A Deep History of the Earliest States, by James C. Scott. Scott, a contrarian, has gotten approving press, but after all, he is merely the new Colin Tudge. Tudge covered much of Scott’s territory twenty years ago in a tiny little book, Neanderthals, Bandits & Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began.

No doubt more than you were asking about early humans.

Wet but warming up in southern Appalachia this weekend. What about where you are?


Weekend Reading

A few intelligent ways to spend the next couple of days:

The Miracle at 14,000 Feet by Ronnie Shuker in Roads and Kingdoms. Ice Hockey in Ladakh.

On the big cosmological news of the week, Dark Matter and the Earliest Stars from Sean Carroll’s blog.

Freedom, Private Property, and Public Access by Emrys Westacott at 3QuarksDaily explores an idea that was new to me before researching Out in the Cold – the Nordic notion of allemansrätten, or “Everyman’s rights,” the freedom to walk wherever one pleases.

Algorithms and the Meaning of Explanation by Daniel Ranard, also  at 3Quarks Daily. A primer on machine learning that’s more interesting than it sounds.

“You’re Fake News” The Unfortunate Reality of the Ad Hominem by Elio Martino in Quillette. Depressing quote:

“Lazy and abusive rhetoric is an effective means of silencing of healthy debate. As a result, polarization in Western Society is likely to get far worse before it gets better.”

Hitler Looks Eastward by Henry C. Wolfe in the Atlantic magazine in 1937. A prediction of the Reich’s expansion written two tears before the invasion of Poland.

Sacrifice Revisited by Audrey Borowski in the LARB’s Marginalia. The quote:

“… ethical self-awareness makes it quite clear that there are situations— tragic situations—in which it is impossible to act without burdening oneself with guilt [the famous “trolley dilemma“]. But at the same time it teaches us that, even faced with the choice of two ways of incurring guilt, we should still find that there is a standard attaching to correct and incorrect action. This standard we call sacrifice.”

You can’t read everything. So instead of reading the book Adults in the Room, here are two reviews of the memoir of former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis about his trials negotiating on behalf of Greece in the Eurozone crisis: Modern Greek Tragedy by Adam Tooze in the NYRB and Austerity by Design by J.W. Mason in the Boston Review (which is itself the length of a small book).

Summary, from Tooze:

“In order to avoid a comprehensive restructuring of their banks, the governments of Northern Europe … funneled funds to Athens, most of which then flowed back out to Greece’s creditor banks in Northern Europe…. It was neither sustainable for Greece nor did it deliver stability for the eurozone. Its ultimate rationale … was to give Northern Europe a roundabout bank bailout.”


Enough for now. Happy reading, and a good weekend to you.


Weekend Reading

Four articles to help you stand out from the herd this weekend:

America at war by Edith Wharton in the Times Literary Supplement – a speech delivered in French in 1918, on the American wartime character, and the difference between the Americans and the French.

Tulip mania: the classic story of a Dutch financial bubble is mostly wrong by Tim Hartford at theconversation.com

The brutal world of sheep fighting: the illegal sport beloved by Algeria’s ‘lost generation’ by Hannah Rae Armstrong in the Guardian. Who knew sheep fighting was a thing?

The Peculiar Business of Being Russian-American in Trump’s USA by Anastasia Edel at NYR daily “In the age of Trump … if the Russians didn’t exist, it would have been a good idea to invent us.”


Weekend Reading

Friday morning, middle of February. I can’t jump to conclusions, but I’d be surprised if this butterfly’s progeny are yet en route from Mexico. There is still time left in the Appalachian winter, so let us remain calm.

There’s no snow on the ground right now, but these hills fill their creeks for summer by rain in winter, and they are busy about doing it just now. If there will be a sunny day in all the month of February no one can say which one it will be.

Two recommendations today for interesting weekend reading:

Above the Treeline about travel along the Northwest Passage by Teva Harrison at Granta.com, and

How Hunter-Gatherers May Hold the Key to our Economic Future by James Suzman at evonomics.com.


My Finnish ESL (English as a second language) wife once accidentally grafted the portmanteau “grandiotic,” just testing it, not sure if it was a word. I don’t think it is a word, but it’s descriptive. Grandiose and idiotic.

“How Hunter-Gatherers May Hold the Key to our Economic Future” sounds grandiotic, but it shouldn’t. It leads into an interesting field of thought about the fundamental nature of work, how work works, and a question: if we employ people nowadays in soul-shattering jobs just to get their forty hours a week, well, should we?

Suzman’s article compliments the well-reviewed new book Against the Grain by James C. Scott, which proposes a newer theory of the transition from hunter-gatherers to, as the author calls it, sedentism. On the topic of humanity’s deep past, see also The Old Way by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade. Together they help frame pre-agricultural society against whatever is coming at us in the age of automation.

Last night I started a clickable collection of articles on this topic under the heading “Future of Work” that you can find in the Categories sidebar. There are more links there that comprise way more than a weekend’s reading.

Enough for now. Have a lovely weekend.

Weekend Reading

Hunting for something interesting to read this weekend? Here’s the list you were looking for. And since we’ve had a couple of posts that touch on British imperialism this week, we start it off with:

The Great British Empire Debate by Kenan Malik at NYR Daily

But wait, there’s more! Enjoy these, too, and have a lovely weekend.

A Bakery in a War Zone by Lily Hyde in Roads and Kingdoms
How warp-speed evolution is transforming ecology by Rachael Lallensack at Nature.com
What science is like in North Korea by Andrada Fiscutean in The Outline
The Person in the Ape by Ferris Jabr at laphamsquarterly.org
America Is Not a Democracy by Yascha Mounk at The Atlantic
How America Collapsed by umair haque at eand.co