Links and Notes

Links and Notes – Week 4, 2021

‘Is Substack the Media Future We Want?’ The New Yorker. (A month-old article that I’ve just got around to reading.) Random aside: I find it mildly interesting that the big three creative membership sites: Substack, OnlyFans and Patreon are all exceedingly ugly. Honestly, just grotesque. It goes to show how little a startups success often has to do with good design.

‘Twitter Acquires Revue, a Newsletter Company.’ New York Times. Will anything come of it? Probably not. As Om Malik points out they have already messed up the ownership of Periscope and Vine.

‘Twitter is opening up its full tweet archive to academic researchers for free’. The Verge. No access to any tweets from Donald Trumps banned account though.

‘How Many Microcovids Would You Spend on a Burrito?’ Wired. She did the maths.

Talking of Substack… I’ve been meaning to create some way to subscribe to I’m Left Handed via email for a while now. So if you’re not a big fan of staying updated via RSS you can now subscribe on Substack here. Have a good weekend everyone.

Links and Notes

Links and Notes – Week 2, 2021

Is Letterboxd Becoming a Blockbuster? New York Times. I’ve been an on-again off-again user of the movie reviewing social network Letterboxd ever since they launched. It’s a lovely little corner of the internet. And it’s been a good year for them:

In 2020, however, the site’s growth was explosive. Letterboxd has seen its user base nearly double since the beginning of the pandemic: They now have more than 3 million member accounts…

I’m astounded by that figure. Because the site still feels as boutique-y and small as the day I joined. I would of guessed they had 60,000 users or so. With most users having the premium Pro plan as the reason the site was still viable financially. But 3 million?! Blimey. And it’s a testament to the folks behind it that it’s as nice a place to visit as the day I joined.

Twitter Shares Fall 7% Following Permanent Trump Ban. Bloomberg. I find it mildly interesting that Twitter is one of the most well known and popular social media sites on earth. It is firmly embedded into the zeitgeist of our time. A single Tweet can ruin careers, alter elections or spark violence. But despite this it’s been a pretty bad investment. All its competitors share prices have gone from strength to strength over the past five years. But $TWTR has been stagnant.

Wikipedia is 20 years old! Wikimedia. It’s still the best thing about the internet.

Hyundai Buys Boston Dynamics for Nearly $1 Billion. IEEE Spectrum. Electronic cars have gone mainstream now. I wonder how long it will take for robotics to join them.

Intel is getting a new CEO. MarketWatch. VMWare CEO Pat Gelsinger will be the new head of Intel. He worked at Intel for over 30 years before leaving a decade or so ago. Does he have what it takes to save the sinking Intel ship? Doubtful in my opinion. All that’s needed now is for AMD to aggressively go for the server market and then Intel will be dead.

A Few Thoughts On Writing. Morgan Housel. Morgan Housel’s “The Psychology of Money” was my favourite book of 2020. It’s one of the most beautifully simple books on money ever published. It’s been added to the list of books that I’d insist my child read before they turn 21. Please buy it.

Burger King has been rebranded. Creative Bloq. I like it. Very ’70’s. Very simple. Now they just need to work on every other aspect of the business (at least in the UK). I haven’t eaten at a Burger King for years now, so I’m a little behind the times here. But the things I liked about BK were their fries were crispy and their burgers had a nice strong smokey flavour and plenty of meat. The bad: I’ve never seen one with a drive through, the inside was always filthy (including the kitchens), it had so little foot-traffic that nothing was ever ready, the staff were for the most part not great and the chicken nuggets were hilariously bad. I noticed not long ago that Deliveroo was offering BK delivery in my area and I felt immediate feelings of disgust. Crappy BK food, totally crushed and entirely cold delivered to me with a £2.69 delivery charge. I could think of few things worse. Anyway, nice rebranding. It’s live on the UK site too.

The Dissident (2020). The new documentary by Bryan Fogel. You may have seen his previous film “Icarus” (2017) on Netflix. It was fantastic and won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. His latest project is about the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by his own government inside their consulate in Turkey. I’ve just finished watching it. And whilst it’s not quite as good as his previous film, which benefited massively from having a tremendous story essentially fall into his lap, this is still very much worth your time.

The editing does takes a little bit of getting used to, with the entire film almost feeling like a montage or trailer. But there’s no denying this a slickly made documentary that will likely keep your attention for its entire two hour runtime. If you liked Citizenfour, the documentry about Edward Snowden then you’ll like this too. It’s currently quite expensive at $20. But give it a while and it will probably appear on a streaming platform you’re a member of eventually. More info (be warned the movies website is a crappy, CPU intensive, Flash-looking mess).

Links and Notes

Links and Notes – Week 18, 2020

But first, some housekeeping… I apologise for the lack of recent updates. My RSI returned recently and the spring weather has been so pleasant that I’ve spent almost every sunlit hour in the garden reading, far away from my computer and the internet. But good news for the blog: England’s grey and pleasant clouds have returned. So here I am.

Jack Dorsey’s fight to survive as (part time) Twitter CEO. Vanity Fair.

Twitter is no longer just a technology company. It is used by world leaders to wage war and local governments to warn of shutdowns. It’s used by politicians to announce they are running for office, to declare they are suspending their campaigns, and to endorse other candidates. It’s where news breaks and journalists find sources. Where Trump pulls the levers of chaos and controls what will consume the nightly news or the morning headlines. During the spread of the coronavirus, it has been an invaluable place to share minute-by-minute mortality and epidemiology statistics from around the globe. Over time, Twitter has become less of a social network and more of a public utility. And yet Dorsey insists it does not need a full-time CEO.

A look at the users of /r/DataHoarder who like to archive and hoard often strange digital data. Ars Technica.

During this current COVID-19-induced finanical crisis why is Warren Buffet radio silent? Vanity Fair.

No words of optimism. No high-profile investments in troubled companies that could surely use his endorsement at this difficult time.
As for what he thought Buffett was doing, Ackman said he suspected his mentor was quietly putting his $125 billion in cash to work buying stocks. He was keeping a low profile to make sure the stocks stayed cheap while he is buying. “After he invests that $100 billion and change,” Ackman says, “he’ll let everybody know.”

Ophthalmologist’s are trying to create a contact lense which tracks blood sugar levels. Medical Xpress. “Chemicals on the contact lens bind with glucose and trigger an electrical current change…” Full paper here. I wonder how far away we are from fairly-smart contact lenses? We’ve had smart glasses via Google Glass, but they were just that tad too bulky. Contact lenses would make sense. Though I imagine they’ll never be able to be especially versatile due to the size contraints. I doubt they’ll be able to do much more than a current Apple Watch does.

The manuals for the new Air Force One will cost $84 million. The Hill. Total price estimate: $5.3 billion. Remarkable cost for just one aircraft.

400-year-old English mill is making flour again. Food & Wine. It previously just made flour for its tourists. Thanks to COVID-19 those tourists are gone now, so it’s making flour again full-time.

Links and Notes

Links and Notes – Week 44, 2019

A Day of Dopamine Fasting in San Francisco

Throughout that day of their dopamine fast, they wandered slowly from room to room. They read. They put on more and more sweaters. The food fasting makes them cold.

As someone who often fasts and gets pretty cold I’m glad to find I’m not alone in this (I wore a vest under my t-shirt and jumper for the first time ever today).

After the fast, Mr. Sinka finds that everyday tasks are more exciting and fun… Food is more delicious.

I’ve found a similar thing after I’ve done a week of Soylent-like food only. That first solid meal afterwards is bliss.

However, I’m mostly linking this article due to just how fucking ridiculous ‘dopamine fasting’ is. I mean listen to this techbro douche:

The other day, Mr. Sinka ran into an old friend but had to tell her they could not continue speaking. “I hadn’t seen her in six months, and it was extraordinarily exciting, super-stimulating, and I could feel how excited I was,” he said. “So I had to cut it off and I just said, ‘Listen, it’s not you, it’s me, doing this dopamine fast.’”

Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia

Social media moles seem to be becoming more and more common.

YouTube Quietly Hides Its Code after Content “Throttling” System Is Leaked

… YouTube is using various proprietary internal metrics to suppress YouTubers but they also show that corporate brands, Hollywood stars, and YouTube’s so-called “authoritative sources” are often given preferential ratings.
YouTube’s algorithms are a genuine disgrace. They have the largest library of amateur (and professional too) video content in the world and it’s all hidden behind a recommendation engine that just wants advertising money and the highest amount of hours watcher per user possible. I only visit YouTube these days if I’m going to search for something in particular such as a tutorial. I refuse to passively browse the wasteland.

The Making of the World’s Greatest Investor

A radical investing style was behind Mr. Simons’s rise. He built computer programs to digest torrents of market information and select ideal trades, an approach aimed at removing emotion and instinct from the investment process. Mr. Simons and colleagues at his firm, Renaissance Technologies LLC, sorted data and built sophisticated predictive algorithms—years before Mark Zuckerberg and his peers in Silicon Valley began grade school.

It’s Time to Take Down the Mona Lisa

Some 80 percent of visitors, according to the Louvre’s research, are here for the Mona Lisa — and most of them leave unhappy. Content in the 20th century to be merely famous, she has become, in this age of mass tourism and digital narcissism, a black hole of anti-art who has turned the museum inside out.

New Default WordPress Theme

WordPress hasn’t had a good default theme for years. The default should be simple and very much not trendy. That’s rarely been the case recently. Well the new default, “Twenty Twenty”, actually looks pretty damn good. It will be released with WordPress 5.3 in the middle of November. But for now you can see a live preview on Matt Mullenweg’s blog.


Did you know that the Soviet Union existed long enough into the 20th Century to get its own domain name?

The Current War (2018)

I first became aware of this film quite a while ago due to the fact it had some big names in it (Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Matthew Macfadyen, Tom Holland) and that it had been in post-production hell for over two years and might never see the light of day (IMDB lists the filming date as 18 December 2016!). I found this to be a shame as it was about a subject I was interested in, the war of currents. Anyway after some re-shoots and re-edits it’s finally starting to appear (often listed as “The Current War: Director’s Cut”). I’ve seen a few films in the past which suffered in post-production limbo and they’ve all been understandably awful. But this isn’t too bad. I don’t know if it’s just because I had such low exceptions going into it, but I enjoyed it. The actors alone are good enough to carry this into being a perfectly respectable affair. It’s not challenging or groundbreaking but it’s a good Sunday afternoon watch. And it piqued my interest enough that I’ve picked up the new Edison biography. 3/5

Links and Notes Technology

Links and Notes – Week 43, 2019

A Cybersecurity Firm’s Sharp Rise and Stunning Collapse

‘Tiversa dominated an emerging online market—before it was accused of fraud, extortion, and manipulating the federal government.’ Long read.

Apple announces AirPods Pro

£249. Noise Cancellation, ‘Transparency Mode’ (allows outside noise in), Qi-enabled charging case, removable tips of different sizes to ensure a good fit. John Gruber [Daring Fireball] has published his first impressions. Transparency Mode should make driving and walking with AirPods much safer.

iOS 13.2 Emoji Changelog

With every iOS update there seems to be a new wave of emojis and I’m always impressed by the detail of Emojipedia’s breakdowns. I’m not an emoji user myself, but I know of people who’s only interest in upgrading iOS is to get new emojis. This time it seems like a lot of emojis have been updated to be ‘gender-neutral’. But to my eyes most of them actually look more feminine than masculine. Apple is also taking away certain stereotypical iconography from their designs it seems, removing the moustache from the police officer and the beard and ponytail from the genie. But with emojis being so small I wonder if this will cause some confusion. You need to rely on stereotypical elements to quickly and clearly display what the emoji is trying to represent.

HBO & Sky On Brink Of New European Programming Deal

In case you’re wondering why the UK won’t be getting the new HBO Max streaming service:

HBO has previously avoided launching a linear channel, or streaming service, in markets covered by Sky as a result of the lucrative programming deal.

Twitter to Ban All Political Advertising

We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons… – @jack

Google Buys Fitbit for $2.1 Billion

… the company will still take privacy for health and fitness data seriously, noting that “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”

The 50 Most Important Websites of All Time

Some nostalgia for you.

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers Series

“… timely ideas of classical thinkers in lively new translations” and at manageable page lengths. Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus and more are all here. I haven’t explored these yet so can’t pass comment but they seem great if you’re interested in discovering some of the Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers for the first time. They’re published with the original text on the left page and the translation on the right (like a Loeb book), which I always enjoy.

Running an Indie Bookstore, With Churchillian Resolve

A short article on a gentleman who runs a bookshop which only sells books by or on Churchill. How is it still in business? Well it also sells high-end memorabilia and has a “favorable” financial arrangement with the buildings owners.

Mr. Steinberg’s secretary called down requesting “a complete set of everything Churchill ever wrote, first edition and bound in leather,” Mr. Singer said. […] Mr. Singer wound up charging Mr. Steinberg $100,000 for the set, half of which was for a rare copy of Churchill’s “Mr. Brodrick’s Army.” “He got a bargain — it’s worth more now,”…

Why Don’t We Eat Swans?

We’re not so squeamish about chicken, turkey, pigeon, or goose, but these long-necked beauties have long been off-limits.

Link Technology

Jack Dorsey Is Gwyneth Paltrow for Silicon Valley

From the New York Times:

For 10 days a year, he sits in silence at a meditation retreat. Before getting dressed each morning, he experiments with using his home infrared sauna and then an ice bath, sometimes cycling through both several times before he leaves home. He walks five miles to work. He eats one meal a day and has said that on the weekends when he fasts from Friday to Saturday, “time slows down.” He talks about starting each morning with salt juice — water mixed with Himalayan salt and lemon. It is dispensed in Twitter offices around the world.

I haven’t really kept up with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey for a while but it seems he’s now gone full podcast bro.

Last time I saw him was via his long-lasting Twitter profile image. But that chisel-jawed Armie Hammer lookalike is more of a Tyron Lannister from Game of Thrones lookalike these days. That dude is looking lean. Maybe this criticism that he’s promoting eating disorders is partly correct. I wonder what’s next chasing that natural high. Self-harm maybe?

I mention all this not to mock the guy, but because I actually find myself somewhat attracted to the health douche culture, sadly. There was quite a while when I flirted with hipsterhood instead. I had to stop myself buying shit from Best Made Co., having £30 beard trims, and listening to Bon Iver. Luckily the furthest I wandered down that path was buying Iron Ranger boots, raw denim jeans and getting into fancy coffee.

So I must be strong and not let this new fad engulf me. I currently actively avoid minimalist YouTube channels, refuse to listen to Tim Ferris, and won’t read Podcast Notes.

Stoicism and intermittent fasting is all I’ve given in to so far. I read Aurelius each morning. And I’ve actually lost a bunch of weight. So, maybe I should just embrace the douchedom? 😐

Further reading: The Podcast Bros Want to Optimize Your Life + Why Is Silicon Valley So Obsessed With the Virtue of Suffering?