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Tag Archives: instapaper

I haven’t been reading as much lately, but did a bit on the weekend:

Where Did the Korean Greengrocers Go?
Mostly talking about NYC, it’s a predictable result of immigrant success, and high rents; with a dash of xenophobia as well.

The Physiology of Foie
An interesting dive into Foie Gras with the first part focusing on how Foie Gras is farmed. The latter half is also interesting as it explains why Foie Gras might not be inhumane as it seems to be – ducks don’t have a gag function, don’t chew and breathe through their tongues!

How a Remote Town in Romania Has Become Cybercrime Central
This small Romanian town is the Silicon Valley of cybercrime:

And just as in Silicon Valley, the clustering of operations in one place made it that much easier for more to get started. “There’s a high concentration of people offering the kinds of services you need to build a criminal scheme,” says Gary Dickson, an FBI agent who worked in Bucharest from 2005 to 2010. “If your specialty is auction frauds, you can find a money pick-up guy. If you’re a money pick-up guy, you can find a buyer for your services.”


I’m probably going to burn through a bunch of instapaper articles during my upcoming trip, so I’d better blog my backlog first:

PR for the PRC
An (unsurprising) story of being an (English) transcriber for the People’s Republic of China. Guess what, things are always positive.

Love you and leave you
This article is the story of (hundred of) millions of parents in China who leave their young kids behind to go to the big city. No, not for the bright lights, but to make enough money to raise their kids! It is a sad story, until I remembered that people from HK having been doing the reverse of this for last few decades!

The Final Days of Favre
The tragic story of Brett Favre?

The Forger’s Story
Yet another story, this one is of an art forger. He doesn’t do it for the money or fraud!


Now that I’ve owned a Kindle for a few weeks, here are my complaints about the device:

  • The Instapaper integration is not that good. Although this is more of a fault of Instapaper itself rather than the Kindle, I think there can be better improvement in sending the articles and abstracts to the Kindle. They could make it look like a magazine rather than what appears to be a big file folder marked “Instapaper”
  • There is a browser based on webkit, and while it works, it is very trying to use. It’s better than the one on my phone because the screen is bigger, but the e-ink is not suited for displays that refresh often. I don’t think there is a way to fix this.
  • The Kindle is not that snappy. When you’re changing books or navigating through menus, there is a delay. I don’t know if this is a function of the e-ink or the device itself, but it is annoying.
  • There are Kindle apps for other devices (Android, PC, etc) that sync up. But it only syncs up books that you’ve bought from Amazon and not other books that you’ve added to the device. It’s probably not in Amazon’s best interest to support third-party books, but it is the user’s preference
  • The list of books doesn’t scale. The Kindle3 has 3GB of storage, but it’s very difficult to scroll through more than say 20 books. You could arrange your books into collections and navigate that way, but it is very tedious to organize your books on the device. I can’t imagine having to do that for 500 books – that would take 8 hours!
  • Similar to the last point, I’ve loaded enough stuff on my Kindle that it takes a long time to find what I’m looking for. It’s very easy to find the last thing you’ve read, unless it’s a periodical where a new issue has appeared; or if it’s something that you loaded on but haven’t looked at in a while. There is a search, maybe I should try it out…
  • Want to read newspapers, magazines, or blogs? You’ll have to pay for it. I have a physical subscription to the Atlantic, why can’t I convert that to a Kindle subscription and receive the magazine electronically? Why do I have to buy a new subscription?

I cleared a couple of Instapaper articles while waiting for some work to be done on the car:

  • Cultural Exchange: Jonathan Kos-Read is ‘the token white guy’ in Chinese cinema
    i.e., The reverse Jackie Chan.
  • The Fall of Niagara Falls
    This article’s an interesting one because we are so close to Niagara Falls, NY and because we pass by there so often. It talks about the Seneca casino and why it is a pure dump immediately once you cross over the border. It doesn’t sound like the conditions will improve very soon.
  • The Cheating Cheaters of Moscow
    The culture that is Russia:

    Wandering spouses have become a common trope for the women of Moscow. “Men’s environment here pushes them towards cheating,” Tanya told me, adding that, these days, a boys’ night out in Russia often involves prostitutes. Tanya and her friends are young, educated, upper-middle-class Muscovites, but talk to any woman in Moscow, and, regardless of age, education, or income level, she’ll have a story of anything from petty infidelity to a parallel family that has existed for decades. Infidelity in Moscow has become “a way of life,” as another friend of mine put it—accepted and even expected.

  • Algorithms Take Control of Wall Street
    Although this article is a good primer on how high frequency trading is affecting the investment industry, I found the most fascinating bit to be an article in the sidebar:

    Before ujam’s AI can lay down accompaniment, it must figure out which notes the user is singing or playing. Once it recognizes them, the algorithm searches for chords to match the tune, using a mix of statistical techniques and hardwired musical rules. The stats are part of the software’s AI and can generate myriad chord progressions. The rules-based module then uses its knowledge of Western musical tropes to narrow the chord options to a single selection.

    Taken to an extreme, hits can truly be manufactured. You just need to write a interesting hook and then the music can write itself.


Strangely, both of these articles had a side mention of IBM, even though neither are talking about IBM at all!

Malcolm Gladwell discusses the usefulness of interviews. In typical Gladwell manner, it is an interesting read – but it seems to just be another story based on Blink:

If this were 1965, Nolan Myers would have gone to work at I.B.M. and worn a blue suit and sat in a small office and kept his head down, and the particulars of his personality would not have mattered so much. It was not so important that I.B.M. understood who you were before it hired you, because you understood what I.B.M. was. If you walked through the door at Armonk or at a branch office in Illinois, you knew what you had to be and how you were supposed to act. But to walk through the soaring, open offices of Tellme, with the bunk beds over the desks, is to be struck by how much more demanding the culture of Silicon Valley is. Nolan Myers will not be provided with a social script, that blue suit and organization chart. Tellme, like any technology startup these days, wants its employees to be part of a fluid team, to be flexible and innovative, to work with shifting groups in the absence of hierarchy and bureaucracy, and in that environment, where the workplace doubles as the rec room, the particulars of your personality matter a great deal.

Then, William Gibson travels to Singapore on Wired’s dime and complains that it is boring.

Singapore is a relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation. If IBM had ever bothered to actually possess a physical country, that country might have had a lot in common with Singapore. There’s a certain white-shirted constraint, an absolute humorlessness in the way Singapore Ltd. operates; conformity here is the prime directive, and the fuzzier brands of creativity are in extremely short supply.

I’ve also previously reached the same conclusion from my couch, which is one reason why we haven’t travelled there yet.


I loaded up my Instapaper reading list on my phone, and then burned through all of it within a day or two on vacation. Oops, maybe I should load more next time.

  • The Diseases of Affluence
    I liked this article about how the Western world’s efficiency, mostly in terms of food, has changed culture around the world.
  • The Danger of Cosmic Genius
    I read this on my phone, then later I realized I had the same article in print with me. Oops. Anyways, it is a story about how a smart guy like Freeman Dyson could be so wrong about global warming. Or is he? Who knows.
  • The Myth of Charter Schools
    There has been focus on charter schools being the saviour of American public education, but this reporter does a little bit of digging and finds how statistics and perception have been skewed by reports and documentaries to support this “fact”.
  • How TV Superchef Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Revolution’ Flunked Out
    Yep, reality TV is not reality. While Jamie Oliver put on a series showing how he could fix American school’s food program, it turns out that his approach is unsustainable and doesn’t work! The existing system was doing better with the meager resources that it had.
  • Modern Parenting
    A lament on over protecting children in this day and age.
  • Alberto Salazar and the New York City Marathon
    The story of how former world-class runner Alberto Salazar is applying technology to train marathon runners.
  • Why Making Dinner is a Good Idea
    This article puts forth the hypothesis that making dinner will actually help solve obesity because you will value what you are eating more; just as how you value IKEA furniture more.
  • What Makes A Great Teacher
    The answer is not in the millions of dollars that school systems have spent in trying to find the result, but it could be in new data from Teach for America.

I’ve been getting a lot of reading done recently, in fact my Instapaper queue is currently empty:

  • Why Wesabe lost to Mint
    One of the cofounders of personal money management startup Wesabe talks about what his company did wrong and how fellow competitor Mint.com beat them in the market and eventually caused them to shut down.
  • A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years
    I started reading this and thought it would be useless, but there are some genuinely insightful points in this list. It’s authored by Douglas Copeland, author of Microserfs.
  • Confessions of a former NFL agent, Josh Luchs
    An inside look on how the NFL agent industry works. Hint: lots of payola.
  • I am Banksy
    The story of an Esquire reporter’s quest to find Banksy in London. I’ve “heard” of Banksy a lot, but I don’t know a lot about him. This article didn’t help too much.
  • The Long Nose of Innovation
    An argument that innovation also takes a long time to develop.

    Innovation is not about alchemy. In fact, innovation is not about invention. An idea may well start with an invention, but the bulk of the work and creativity is in that idea’s augmentation and refinement. The newer the idea, the coarser the granularity of most analysis, and the more likely people are to say, “oh, that’s just like X” or “that’s been done before,” without any appreciation for how much work and innovation is involved in taking an idea from concept to wide practice.

    I’ve been guilty of this knee-jerk reaction.

  • What will future generations condemn us for?
    Interesting not so much about the future, but the survey of what we’ve condemned in the past.
  • The Gentle Art of Poverty
    This is a story about a ~60 y/o American living in San Diego and how he can survive on an astonishing low income every year. Of course, it’s not entirely moral.
  • The case of the vanishing blonde
    The story of how a private detective resolved a rape when local enforcement nor insurance adjustment investigators made no headway.

Another article from my Instapaper queue is this story from Vanity Fair about a couple of British boys who tried to climb Mont Blanc. The British have a colourful history of climbing mountains, racing to the North/South pole which I enjoy reading about, even if it’s just on Wikipedia. These boys have the same interest as they have followed in the footsteps of their forebearers and (successfully) climbed Everest.

Their latest adventure ended in tragedy as half of their party died. It’s a sad story, but what I couldn’t shake a day after reading this was how depressing the job of the mountain-rescue officer in the small tourist town of Chamonix (< 10,000 population) must be. Mont Blanc is the world's deadliest mountain, and so the officer must have to rely tragic bad news much more often than a doctor in Chamonix would have to.


It just happens that I had a couple of articles on friendship in my Instapaper queue. The first is about new (online) services where you can do online dating rent a friend. Why would you ever want to do something like that?

Andy thinks it could be the desire for uncomplicated companionship, rather than loneliness, that is driving the growth in friend-hire. “It’s not about striking up a relationship,” he says. “People don’t want to have loads of close friends because it completely ties up your life.” He’s both perceptive and articulate, although I can’t help feeling the person who’s paying shouldn’t be doing so much listening. We should really be talking about what I think.

Shortly after we sit down for lunch at another cafe, we run into my friend Sam. He’s a real friend – not in the sense that he’s always been there for me, just in the sense that I’ve never paid him.

The second is a more serious take, on how our definition has of friendship has evolved in this day and age.


I use Instapaper to queue articles to read on my phone. Here are some of the articles that I enjoyed reading recently.


To help me when I’m waiting or bored, I installed an Instapaper app on my phone. Instapaper is a service where you can save articles and then read them through the site (or through some other app).

Here’s an interesting article I read about “friends”, and not friends. The definition of friends has been diluted now, with acquaintances becoming known as friends thanks to Facebook and other social networking sites. But this article is arguing that our society is changing and we have very few real “friends” now.

But we live now in a climate in which friends appear dispensable. While most of us wouldn’t last long outside the intricate web of interdependence that supplies all our physical needs—imagine no electricity, money, or sewers—we’ve come to demand of ourselves truly radical levels of emotional self-sufficiency. In America today, half of adults are unmarried, and more than a quarter live alone. As Robert Putnam showed in his 2000 book Bowling Alone, civic involvement and private associations were on the wane at the end of the 20th century. Several years later, social scientists made headlines with a survey showing that Americans had a third fewer nonfamily confidants than two decades earlier. A quarter of us had no such confidants at all.

In a separate study, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, authors of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (2009), surveyed more than 3,000 randomly chosen Americans and found they had an average of four “close social contacts” with whom they could discuss important matters or spend free time. But only half of these contacts were solely friends; the rest were a variety of others, including spouses and children.