The Roundup for January 21-31, 2018 Edition

(Smile! by Christopher Parsons)

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.

Inspiring Quotation

“To create one’s world … takes courage.”

— Georgia O’Keeffe

Great Photography Shots

I really appreciated the very different natures of the three shots, below, which were compiled by Mobiography as part of the 15 Superb Smartphone Photos of Urban Life challenge.

(‘Waiting for their pasta‘ by @zoyazen)
(‘PANCHIKAWATTE‘ by @the.r.a.b.b.i.t)
(‘Sunsets and silhouettes‘ by @tanvi2016)

Music I’m Digging

I’ve been listening to a bunch of different playlists over the past few weeks, with my favourites being:

  • Apple Music – The New Atlanta // There are some amazing artists coming out of Atlanta, with 21 Savage, 6LACK, and Takeoff probably being amongst my favourites at the moment.
  • Apple Music – The New New York // Part of the reason I wanted to listen to this list was because Atlanta is being seen as where a lot of the freshest talent is coming from; I wanted to be able to compare between the two cities and the new artists emerging out of them. If I’m honest, I’m preferring the New York playlist with artists like Thutmose, Princess Nokia, 6ix9ine, HoodCelebrityy, amongst others.
  • Jasmine Jones – 🍽 // I’ve been listening to a lot of Jasmine Jones’ playlists, with her playlist for dinner parties being a really nice background playlist with interesting and cool tracks that I haven’t ever found on an equivalent playlist. Really though, all of Jones’ playlists are worth checking out!
  • Songs I Liked in January 2019 // I didn’t actually favourite a huge number of new songs this month, which was actually a bit shocking when I ran my script. Still, I really do like the few tracks that did get a like!

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Backstory – Nixon Beyond Watergate: A History of the Presidency Before the Scandal // I really didn’t know much about Nixon other than the scandal and so, as an example, had no idea that it was under his presidency that a lot of the United States’ environmental regulation began in force. Nor was I really aware of just how effective a political communicator he had been prior to the scandal itself. If you’re interested in filling in some historical blank spots then this is a good listen.
  • 99% Invisible – Gathering the Magic // I played Magic: The Gathering periodically during high school and university but always got out because I saw that it would demand a regular monetary investment to have the ‘best’ cards. That said, it was a lot of fun when I played. This episode goes through all of the challenges in putting together a game that is card-based and yet has a significant storyline behind it. Moreover, it talks about the politics of adding progressive cards, such as characters with non-CIS sexualities. That said, I think that the discussion of the game that fails to account for the financial rationale for putting out new decks on a regular basis papers over the fact that this is a game built to print money, and has for a long time. A more holistic accounting would have touched on the relationship between that business model and the progressive nature of that game itself (at least as presented by the persons interviewed in the episode).

Good Reads

  • The Route of a Text Message // I’ve never come across a simultaneously so-comprehensive and so-amusing explanation of a contemporary technology. Scott’s breakdown of every single element of typing a SMS message is remarkable; if only there were more such breakdowns, perhaps more social scientists would realize the importance of how policies and laws can affect protocols and code for good or ill.
  • Amazon Knows What You Buy. And It’s Building a Big Ad Business From It. // I had no idea how sophisticated Amazon’s advertising systems were, and that they were leveraging information given to the company, like type of car you own, purchases you make, size and composition of your family, and so on, to help third-parties target ads. This is yet another case of a company exploiting data in non-transparent ways that are, frankly, just creepy.
  • The Secret to Getting Top-Secret Secrets // Fagone’s article is somewhat mis-titled; it’s really a story about Jason Leopold, a journalist who’s been using the USA’s FOIA process to extract secret documents from the government to subsequently report on them. And the story of Leopold’s journalist and personal history is really, really interesting: he’s managed to turn his addictive personality from that which was destructive (e.g. drugs, alcohol) to positive (e.g. requesting documents from the government). Fagone effectively showcases the depths of Leopold’s character and, in the process, also raises baseline questions of why more journalists aren’t using Leopold’s method more rigorously given its successes.
  • Your Company’s Promotion Process is Broken // Mannan’s piece is a must-read for anyone who needs their regular reminder that gender and cultural backgrounds are factors managers absolutely must take into consideration when they’re evaluating employee performance. I found her honesty in presenting her own experiences, as well as how a manager productively engaged with her to improve how she wrote her own self-assessments, was refreshing and provided a good number of practical things to watch for when actually evaluating employees’ self-assessments.
  • The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives // When I visited President Johnson’s ranch last year I’d never really known much about him. And, to be fair, I still know little about him. However, Caro’s article on his experiences in going through the president’s archives is deeply revealing of the limitations of other authors’ biographies of the president and the sheer amount of work Caro does in excavating the truth of his subjects. It’s a stunning article in just the process of Caro’s work, to say nothing of the actual insight he has in conducting interviews and gaining the trust of interview subjects.
  • The Sloth’s Busy Inner Life and Where Sloths Find These Branches, Their Family Trees Expand // These pair of articles from the NY Times’ science section are really, really interesting insofar as they explain why sloths in South and Central America risk the dangerous trip down from their trees to defecate (reason: to foster moths, which ultimately live and die in the sloth’s fur to facilitate the growth of moss that the sloth eats from its fur) and how trees in cacao plantations are helpful to facilitate survival of sloth populations. It’s incredible to realize how intricate these animals’ ecosystem has become and, also, worrying to realize how delicate these ecosystems really are.
  • 8 Tips For Incredible Urban Photography On iPhone // This is a terrific guide for thinking about how to see an urban environment and, also, how to compose and edit the shots that you take with your iPhone or any other camera that you happen to have with you. There’s lots of good guides like this, but it was the comprehensive nature of this piece that made me really like it.
  • I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible. // Using a customized VPN, Hill attempted to block any access to Amazon products and realized that while avoiding Amazon retail is challenging, but possible, it is almost impossible to avoid using the company’s Internet infrastructure. In the process, she disclosed in a clear and transparent way just how broad Amazon’s power has become, and that the company arguably operates as a quasi-monopoly in today’s digital economy.

Cool Things

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