Archive for the ‘Worth Reading’ category
If you’ve worked in shipping or (retail) logistics, you’ve probably have seen a blue pallet. They’re so much luxuriously better than a traditional ones whose quality is all over the map. I’d always wondered their story, this explains all the drama that surrounds these CHEP pallets quite well:
CHEP doesn’t sell pallets; it rents them. This means that, in contrast to the world of whitewood, where a pallet may change ownership many times, CHEP maintains control of its pallets throughout their lives. But the company’s experience operating what is known in the industry as a “closed pool” didn’t translate easily into the American context, where supply chains were longer, more complex, and geographically dispersed.
As the story goes onto detail, much chaos has ensued because of this reality of American shipping.
A really interesting and worthy book review of the awkward tension that exists — and is highlighted in William Easterly’s new book — about how the huge western economic development industry seems to have a big soft spot for freedom-hating autocrats.
In 2013, Melinda Gates, on the eve of a trip to Ethiopia, described it as one of her favorite countries. “I always enjoy visiting Ethiopia,” she declared, “because I see inspirational stories and concrete leadership from the government and community health workers reaching the hardest to reach and making change.” Easterly quotes a 2013 report by Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative praising the Ethiopian government’s “strong, accountable leadership in implementing the plan.”
Strong, certainly; accountable, certainly not. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 country report, “Ethiopia’s ambitious development schemes, funded from domestic revenue sources and foreign assistance, sometimes displace indigenous communities without appropriate consultation or any compensation.” And after describing in detail the government’s imprisonment of nonviolent opposition leaders and journalists, and denial of the right to assembly, among many other violations of human rights, the report notes that while Ethiopia receives donor assistance of almost $4 billion a year.
Jason Kottke recently pointed back to an old post he loved. And I’m so glad he did, it’s such an amazing and novel perspective on human history.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., one the United States’ great historians, is less than two lifetimes removed from a world where the United States did not exist. Through Mr. Schlesinger, you’re no more than three away yourself. That’s how short the history of our nation really is.
A different, and maybe better, kind of commencement speech:
“Follow your dreams” and “live your passions” are insanely unhelpful tips when the bills need paying or the rent is almost due. Invariably, commencement speakers tend to be the lucky few, the ones who followed their dreams and still managed to land on their feet: Most of us won’t become Steve Jobs or Neil Gaiman, regardless of how hard we try or how much passion we might hold. It’s far more likely to get stuck working as a waiter or bartender, or on some other dead-end career path. Most people will have to choose between “doing what they love,” and pursuing the more mundane promise of a stable paycheck and a promising career path. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making the latter choice; in fact, I’d usually recommend it.
I’m only now — at 28 — starting to understand why I was so damn inept at conversation much of my life. This nice little short essay about conversations covers a good quantity of what I’ve learned:
Shyness takes a lot of the blame for poor conversations. We get scared of opening our souls because we falsely exaggerate the difference between ourselves and others. We display only our strengths, vaunt only our successes, lay out only our conventional proposals – and bore others as a result because it is in the revelation of our weaknesses, in the display of our fragilities, in the confession of our wilder fantasies that we grow interesting and likeable. It is almost impossible to be bored when a person tells you sincerely what they have failed at or who has humiliated them, what they long for and when they have been at their craziest.
Tom Meagher’s wife was raped and killed. But he writes quite movingly about how and why he refuses to accept the idea that the man responsible is some aberrant and abhorrent creature:
By insulating myself with the intellectually evasive dismissal of violent men as psychotic or sociopathic aberrations, I self-comforted by avoiding a more terrifying concept: that violent men are socialised by the ingrained sexism and entrenched masculinity that permeates everything, from our daily interactions all the way up to our highest institutions. Bayley’s appeal was dismissed, but I left court that day in a perpetual trauma-loop, knowing I needed to re-imagine the social, institutional and cultural context in which a man like Bayley exists.
This piece from NYRB is an awesome and brief biography of one of the more interesting and controversial early presidents of the United States: John Quincy Adams. It’s a good read even if you’re not a history buff like me:
John Quincy Adams was a highly principled, hardworking, and patriotic man of great intelligence and integrity. He was complex and full of contradictions, frigid and hot-tempered, confrontational and thin-skinned, devoted to public service and egocentric. He yearned for acclaim and strove for achievement and high political office. But as Fred Kaplan demonstrates in his engaging, well-crafted, and deeply researched biography that puts particular emphasis on John Quincy’s rich life of the mind and draws extensively from his diary this supremely successful diplomat and shrewd practitioner of realpolitik had a personality quite unsuited for a life in politics.
I think Alain de Botton is one of the most interesting and valuable thinkers and writers alive today. I really enjoyed this piece:
De Botton talked about some of the writers he loves – Montaigne, and the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott – and then he told me about a service, known as “bibliotherapy”, offered by the School of Life, which (I think) he thought I would hate. The idea is that someone suggests enriching books for you to read. “What a load of wank!” he exclaimed, gleefully taking the role of his detractors. “What do I want to say? Just calm down … ” It occurred to me, as it has long occurred to him, that our reactions to him might say more about ourselves than they do about him. “Is this the enemy?” He asked. “Is this really the enemy?”
(via The Browser)
I’ve said it a number of times that I love when literary review send a reporter to conflict areas and let them be verbose and thorough in their impressions. Ukraine’s recent history and near-term reality is explained clearly and vividly by Tim Judah for the NYRB. His conclusion, though I encourage you to read it if you have the time:
But while it will be hard to agree on a date, it is already easy to say what is happening in people’s heads. Six months ago everyone here just went about their normal business. They were worried about the things that everyone worries about, and here especially: low salaries, scraping by, collecting money for all the bribes one has to pay, and so on. And then something snapped. The rotting ship of the Ukrainian state sprung a leak and everything began to go down. In people’s heads a new reality has gradually begun to take shape and, in this way, everyone is being prepared for war.
By now the drama of the Heartbleed bug has mostly come and gone — though if you’ve not changed any passwords you’d be heartbroken to see comprised, you still need to — this little piece about the reality of the way the open source software that allowed it was being built is a pleasant little yarn.
The come-and-go, casual nature of the group means that hierarchies aren’t formalized. Marquess can’t say exactly how many people help out with its development at any one time, but directs me to a list on the foundation’s website naming seven active contributors. He points out that until April 23 the list was out of date — and included at least one person who is deceased.
As a result, OpenSSL’s code is a slurry of cobbled-together snippets that work — but only just. It’s strewn with developers’ comments to one another, sandwiched between slashes. Some of them are aesthetic, like, “BIG UGLY WARNING! This is so damn ugly I wanna puke … ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! Let’s get rid of this macro package. Please?” Some are outright petrifying, like the comment that reads, “EEK! Experimental code starts.” They’re unflinchingly honest, yes, but they give an insight into the chaotic nature of the code that makes the program.