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Here's what I read in September


The Bestseller Code, by Jodie Archer and Matthew L Jockers. An analysis of bestselling narratives using NLP, sentiment analysis, and machine learning - but really a discussion of the art of narrative, backed by data. Fascinating.

Lanny, by Max Porter. A tense mystery woven from an impressionist tapestry of exceptionally well-observed rural British life; experimental and spiritual, while also pulse-poundingly real. I couldn’t put it down.

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, by Greta Thunberg. A collection of her compelling, frank, calls to action that makes clear how powerful she is. We need her uncompromising voice.

gods with a little g, by Tupelo Hassman. Its irreverence hooked me; then it reeled me in and took me, my laughter and sobbing facets of its revealed truth. I wish I could write like this. I wish I could read like this forever. Beautiful.

Notable Articles

Can You Write a Novel as a Group? An interesting exploration of writing groups - which, like startups and just about any other group of people I can think of, often fall apart because of preventable human dynamics.

Another Network is Possible. I agree that Indymedia could and should have shown the way. There's still time.

Young people may download news apps, but they spend very little time with them. "No news app (with the exception of Reddit) was within the top 25 apps used by respondents."

I Broke The Official Jeremy Renner App By Posting The Word "Porno" On It. "The second thing you will find upon installing the app—if you have not already installed the official Jeremy Renner app, please feel free to take this parenthetical as an opportunity to do so—is that every push notification you receive through the app looks as though it is coming directly from Mr. Renner himself." What happened next is both terrible and delicious.

MIT Media Lab founder: Taking Jeffrey Epstein’s money was justified. Nicholas Negroponte could not have been more wrong here. And it's a sad indictment of him, the institution he founded, and prevalent attitudes at every institution and ... just about everywhere else. There's so much work to do.

A Shocking Number of Americans Want to 'Just Let Them All Burn'. "The impulse to share hateful rumors "are associated with 'chaotic' motivations to 'burn down' the entire established democratic 'cosmos'... This extreme discontent is associated with motivations to share hostile political rumors, not because such rumors are viewed to be true but because they are believed to mobilize the audience against disliked elites.""

That Assault Weapon Ban? It Really Did Work. Let's stop beating around the bush and reinstate an effective ban.

The Space Crone. Ursula K LeGuin's full, beautiful essay about ageing, the menopause, and facing the unknown.

‘You understand that you might have to shoot a student?’ The realities of arming teachers.

How an Élite University Research Center Concealed Its Relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. The story has moved on, but let's not let this drop.

How to prepare yourself for a good end of life. "In the past three years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people who have witnessed good deaths and hard ones, and I consulted top experts in end-of-life medicine. This is what I learned about how to get the best from our imperfect health care system and how to prepare for a good end of life." Unfortunately very relevant to my interests right now.

Report reveals play-by-play of first U.S. grid cyberattack. "A first-of-its-kind cyberattack on the U.S. grid created blind spots at a grid control center and several small power generation sites in the western United States, according to a document posted yesterday from the North American Electric Reliability Corp."

Running Restaurants in San Francisco Made Me Rethink Everything I Thought I Knew About Success. "Looking back to when I first started out in the restaurant industry, I had defined success as becoming established, having your restaurants, and being a pillar in your community. Now, success merely means surviving."

‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence. "More than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials and close associates of Falwell spoke to me or provided documents for this article, opening up—for the first time at an institution so intimately associated with the Falwell family—about what they’ve experienced and why they don’t think he’s the right man to lead Liberty University or serve as a figurehead in the Christian conservative movement." I don't think it's meaningful different to the rest of the Christian conservative movement, though, to be honest.

I Was Caroline Calloway. An inside story about exploitation and influencer culture.

The rise of anti-trans “radical” feminists, explained. "The key to understanding why a self-proclaimed radical feminist group would side with conservatives arguing for the right to force cisgender women into skirts at work is to understand who TERFs are and what they’ve been up to for the past 50 years. Because now, under the Trump administration and a conservative-majority Supreme Court, their alliance with these far-right groups could have lasting, widespread consequences for trans civil rights — and for the rights of women in general." I've got nothing nice to say about TERFs.

Jennifer Gunter: ‘Women are being told lies about their bodies’. "When one of Goop’s “medical experts” wrote that Gunter was “strangely confident” in her thoughts on jade eggs, she replied: “I am not strangely confident about vaginal health; I am appropriately confident because I am the expert.” Many of her statements end with similar mic drops. It is a rare moment when a gynaecologist becomes an international celebrity, and it comes on a wave of misinformation, fear and continued attacks on the bodily autonomy of women. One Goop fan called Gunter the “vaginal Antichrist”."

How Paris got a taste for second-hand style from Africa. "Unloved cast-offs sent to Togo's markets by charity shops in Europe are given a second life by a canny vintage dealer in Paris."

How To Lose A Third Of A Million Dollars Without Really Trying. A cautionary tale from the publishing industry, which is likely similar to the music industry, and elsewhere in the arts.

Revealed: catastrophic effects of working as a Facebook moderator. "A group of current and former contractors who worked for years at the social network’s Berlin-based moderation centres has reported witnessing colleagues become “addicted” to graphic content and hoarding ever more extreme examples for a personal collection. They also said others were pushed towards the far right by the amount of hate speech and fake news they read every day."

I have a dream that the powerful take the climate crisis seriously. The time for their fairytales is over. Greta Thunberg is a superhero.

How Slack Got Ahead in Diversity. "For one thing, the company has, since 2015, proactively sought out candidates from outside traditional programmer pipelines like Stanford and MIT, recruiting through all-women’s coding camps like Hackbright, as well as programs that focus on training black and Latino programmers such as Code2040." And in doing so, is outperforming other tech companies. I'm watching this closely. These are things we should all be doing.

Trump: My Crimes Can’t Be Investigated While I’m President. Let's see about that.

Silicon Valley Goes to Therapy. "Silicon Valley is approaching its anxiety the way it knows best. So now there is on-demand therapy. Therapy metrics. Therapy R.O.I. Matching therapists with clients using the tools of online dating." Confession: I used a therapy startup to find the therapist I've been seeing for the last year, and it's been a very positive experience for me.

‘Racist’ Home Office passport system couldn’t recognise black man’s lips. "The Race Equality Foundation said it believes the system was not tested properly to see if it would work for black or ethnic minority people, calling it ‘technological or digital racism’." It's worth considering how many other systems have not been tested in this way, and what the impact of false positives could be on a person's life.

Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns. "What if the banking, asset-management, and insurance industries moved away from fossil fuels?"

This is your phone on feminism. "Our devices are basically gaslighting us. They tell us they work for and care about us, and if we just treat them right then we can learn to trust them. But all the evidence shows the opposite is true."

Maria Ressa: “Facebook Broke Democracy in Many Countries around the World, Including in Mine”. "More than at any other time, political leaders have to define the values they stand for. And they have to come together and let go of the rivalries and the bitterness and the alliances of the past. I think that our opposition politicians [in the Philippines] could’ve done a better job if they understood both the role of democracy and if they stopped looking at it as a game of politics. I see the same with the Democratic Party of the United States; they’re going to self-implode before they even get to elections."

NY Fed: Minimum wage hikes didn't kill jobs. Increasing the minimum wage actually improved job numbers for lower-paid workers. An important finding to counter a common conservative talking point.

Looking back at the Snowden revelations. From a cryptographic perspective. "It might very well be that the NSA has lost a significant portion of its capability since Snowden."

A New Theory of Obesity. "“Ultraprocessed” foods seem to trigger neural signals that make us want more and more calories, unlike other foods in the Western diet."

Building a Mystery: An Oral History of Lilith Fair. "In the mid-1990s, female musicians topped the charts and sold out shows, but were told over and over again that no one would pay to see more than one woman onstage. Sarah McLachlan set out to prove them wrong."

You can’t be ‘impartial’ about racism – an open letter to the BBC on the Naga Munchetty ruling. "The BBC has upheld a complaint against its Breakfast presenter. As British broadcasters and journalists of colour, we demand it reconsiders."


Here's what I read in August, July, June, May, April, March, February, and January.