Friday morning coffee reads

It’s time to settle down with a steaming mug of coffee, some interesting stories and begin putting off getting any meaningful work done today.

  1. A new view of how the moon formed.
  2. Against the Octopus. It’s not a crafty, soulful genius. It’s dinner. Of related interest is one of the best books I read last year: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith.
  3. The oldest restaurant in the world has had the same fire burning for 293 years.
  4. What it’s like to transit the Panama Canal on a 43′ catamaran. Here’s another blogger detailing the same trip.
  5. An engineer’s take on working at major tech companies.
  6. Colossal family tree shows genetics explains only a small part of differences in how long a person lives.
  7. Is Spotify really worth $20 billion?
  8. Man jailed after stabbing his neighbour for ‘incessantly’ reciting poetry.

Review: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

Kim Fu’s novel The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, digital galley) alternates between the stories of five young women who experienced a traumatic event at camp while girls. Unfortunately it reads as a disparate collection of unrelated stories, with the camp experience being the only thing connecting the women.

While each of the women’s future lives is interesting, it’s not clear what impact that camp event has had on the women, the drama is simply too subdued. Any one of the life stories would have been more compelling if flushed out as a full novel. But by combining the stories, all continuity is lost and just as we’re getting to know each of the characters their story is cut short for a flashback to camp.

Fu is clearly a talented writer and has a lot to say about relationships and how individuals deal with loss. The potential of this novel, however, feels unfulfilled.

Very short reviews of books

A roundup of very short reviews of books I recently read. Lincoln in the Bardo and Panorama are worth your attention.

Lincoln in the Bardo: This inventive, profound and humorous novel by George Saunders unfolds in unexpected ways and concerns the death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son, Willie. The audiobook features a cast of 166 narrators who portray the characters, living and dead, and I recommend it for the riveting performances. (5/5 stars.)

Zero Hour (Expeditionary Force Book #5): The adventure continues in this fifth installment of the Expeditionary Force series by Craig Alanson. This is the most entertaining of the last three books, but in the end it’s more of the same. It’s past time for Alanson to reveal some backstory about the artificial intelligence, Skippy, at the center of the books. (4/5 stars.)

Panorama: A life affirming, if heartbreaking, first novel that looks at the effects of a plane crash on survivors. (4/5 stars.) Read full review.

Turtles All the Way Down: The latest by John Greene feels contrived as the heroine, Aza, helps look for a missing billionaire while coping with a serious anxiety disorder. Featuring Greene’s exceedingly well spoken, widely read, clever and tragically brilliant characters.  (3/5 stars.)

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore: Kim Fu’s novel alternates between the stories of five women who experience a traumatic event at camp while young girls. Unfortunately it reads as a disparate collection of unrelated stories, with the shared camp experience the only thing that connects the women. (3/5 stars.) Read full review.

New Rules: In comedian Bill Maher’s 2005 book of musing on politics and culture he comes of as irritable, partisan, pessimistic and sometimes funny. In other words, a lot like cable news. (2/5 stars.)

The good news story of craft beer

I again had the pleasure of joining journalist and Indiana University Media Adviser Kenny Smith on The Best Story I’ve Heard Today podcast. Today we discuss why the craft beer industry is thriving, based on this story from The AtlanticCraft beer is the strangest, happiest economic story in America.

From 2008-2016 the number of craft breweries expanded by a factor of 6 and the number of brewery workers grew by 120 percent. The growth was fueled by a number of factors, including consumer tastes, support for local businesses, trendiness, social media and the falling cost of production equipment due to globalization.

You can go directly to the podcast or listen below. While there, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on all of the interesting stories he and his guests run across.

Friday morning coffee reads

Some interesting stories to read while you begin the end of your week.

  1. Urban bird feeders are changing the course of evolution.
  2. A stolen Degas painting is recovered — on a bus.
  3. Twenty years after its launch, Rotten Tomatoes’ verdict is now seen as vital to a film’s success or failure. Is the site too influential for its own good?
  4. The tyranny of convenience.
  5. You Can’t Have Denmark Without Danes. “What a small, happy country can teach a huge and fractious one. And what it can’t.”
  6. The Wall Street Journal has built a paywall that bends to the individual reader. “Non-subscribers visiting now get a score, based on dozens of signals, that indicates how likely they’ll be to subscribe. The paywall tightens or loosens accordingly.”
  7. Americans and Russians fought a battle in Syria — it’s time to care.
  8. When a YA novel was criticized for racism prior to publication, the author attempted something radical — she pushed its release date and rewrote it.
  9. How can a place with 58,000 homeless people continue to function?
  10. The lost art of bending over: How other cultures spare their spines.

Review: Panorama

Television news pundit Richard MacMurray is in the middle of examining his life in Washington, D.C., when he finds out his estranged sister was aboard Panorama Airlines Flight 503, which crashed in Dallas with no survivors. Her death leaves MacMurray as the only living relative of her young son, Gabriel, and just another of the characters in Panorama touched by the disaster. Read more

Debunking conspiracy theories for dummies

I had the pleasure today of joining journalist and Indiana University Media Adviser Kenny Smith to discuss conspiracy theories and how to debunk them on The Best Story I’ve Heard Today podcast. The conversation is centered around the column “how to test your favorite conspiracy theory” by Bloomberg writer and George Mason University Professor of Economics Tyler Cowen.

You can go directly to the podcast or listen here:

Some related links


Friday morning coffee reads

Interesting articles to peruse with your morning joe.

  1. Why mansions are artificially cheap and how you’re paying for them.
  2. What may be the U.S.’s first drone-linked aircraft crash is being investigated. Investigators are also looking into a report that a drone struck a helicopter in Kauai. A frightening close encounter of a drone and a passenger jet in Las Vegas. A drone crashes into Apple’s new headquarters. Close encounters have led to requests for tighter regulations.
  3. Daniel Radcliffe as an angel administrator? TV premises are getting too weird.
  4. How to test your favorite conspiracy theory. “I notice also that UFO claims have plummeted since the advent of mobile phones with cameras (‘Oh, did you get a photo of them?’).”
  5. Missouri Legislature should not repeal post-Ferguson reforms. Related to this, the U.S. Fifth Circuit ruled last week that “A system where a ‘wealthy arrestee is less likely to plead guilty, more likely to receive a shorter sentence or be acquitted, and less likely to bear the social costs of incarceration’ is unconstitutional.” Here is an editorial on this case from The New York Times in 2017. (Hattip: The Volokh Conspiracy)
  6. Norwegian Olympians have won the most medals. And they’re joking around.
  7. Craft beer is the strangest, happiest economic story in America.
  8. Can you spot the billionaire? Income inequality in America is irrelevant, from 2004. And related from 2016, most ordinary Americans in 2016 are richer than was John D. Rockefeller in 1916. More at: America in 1915: Long hours, crowded houses, death by trolley.
  9. Japanese company draws up plans for world’s tallest wooden skyscraper.
  10. In photography:  Klaus Pichler finds whimsical pairings behind the scenes at the Museum of Natural History in Vienna.
  11. The worst roommate ever.
  12. What does it mean, exactly, for something to be “trending”?

A list of Amazon RSS feeds for 2018

Amazon RSS feeds

I’ve updated and expanded the list of Amazon RSS feeds for 2018. Amazon provides RSS feeds for Best Sellers, New Releases, Movers & Shakers, Most Wished For and Gift Ideas. Because they’re difficult to locate on Amazon, I’ve added links below to 175 Amazon RSS feeds across five categories.

If you would like to find more feeds you can navigate to this page on Amazon and choose one of the tabs and departments. At the bottom of each department page there is a link to an RSS feed. There are hundreds of sub-departments for which you can find feeds.

Amazon RSS feeds for 2018

Friday morning coffee reads

For your Friday enjoyment, here is a roundup of interesting reads from the week.

  1. Lessons from a slow-motion robot takeover: Cotton harvesting is now dominated by machines.
  2. How Facebook is killing comedy.
  3. The autonomous selfie drone is here. Is society ready for it?
  4. Our infrastructure is not ‘crumbling.’
  5. The best things found between the pages of old books.
  6. The weird true story of the rise and fall of the waterbed.