in Misc.

What I’ve been reading

Some links that have caught my eye of late:

2008 Year-End Google Zeitgeist (Via Steve Rubel on Twitter)1

As the year comes to a close, it’s time to look at the big events, memorable moments and emerging trends that captivated us in 2008. As it happens, studying the aggregation of the billions of search queries that people type into the Google search box gives us a glimpse into the zeitgeist — the spirit of the times. We’ve compiled some of the highlights from Google searches around the globe and hope you enjoy looking back as much as we do.

WSJ: “Asia’s Tourism: Boon and Bane: Low-Cost Countries With Popular Spots Better Off Than Others2

Recession in major economies around the world has hit Southeast Asia’s pivotal tourism industry, but increased domestic and regional travel by cash-squeezed travelers based in Asia means some countries will be hurt less than others.

Governments around the region are cutting forecasts for income as both long-haul tourists and business travelers get increasingly cost-conscious. That is a problem because tourism accounts for a hefty 6% or more of most economies in Southeast Asia.

Still, some low-cost countries with attractive tourist spots and large homegrown populations should lose out less.

Daily Routines: How writers, artists, and other interesting people organize their days. Sample entry: Truman Capote3

INTERVIEWER
What are some of your writing habits? Do you use a desk? Do you write on a machine?

CAPOTE
I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis. No, I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand (pencil). Then I do a complete revision, also in longhand. Essentially I think of myself as a stylist, and stylists can become notoriously obsessed with the placing of a comma, the weight of a semicolon. Obsessions of this sort, and the time I take over them, irritate me beyond endurance.

Foreign Policy: The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2008. They are:

1. The Surge in Afghanistan Starts Early
2. Colombian Coca Production Increases
3. The Next Darfur Heats Up
4. The United States Helps India Build a Missile Shield
5. Russia Makes a Play for Africa
6. Greenhouse Gas Comes from Solar Panels
7. Shanghai Steel Fails Basic Safety Tests
8. Aid to Georgia Finances Luxury Hotel in Tbilisi
9. For the First Time, U.S. Citizen Convicted of Torture Abroad
10. American Company Sells ‘Sonic Blasters’ to China

— An interesting motorcycle story from the New York Times’s Handlebars section: “To Attract New Riders, Motorcycles Go Shiftless“: 4

Car sales, already in a deep funk, would probably be slower yet if automakers decided to offer no alternative to manual transmissions.

Makers of street motorcycles have largely painted themselves into that corner. And with the effects of stalled credit markets flattening out a 14-year streak of steady growth — despite the allure of good gas mileage in a wobbly economy — it’s no surprise that manufacturers are mounting an effort to introduce more rider-friendly bikes.

Makers as big as Honda, the world’s largest, and as specialized as Aprilia, a style-centric Italian brand, are working to eliminate the perceived obstacles of shifting gears and mastering a clutch with new models that let riders simply gas it and go.

New York Times: “Holiday Books: Travel

— And last but not least, a wonderful collection of book scans on Flickr: “Nostalgia for the Scholastic Book Club, circa ’60’s & ’70’s

  1. Related: “StateStats: Analyzing Google search patterns“ []
  2. There’s this about Thailand, which should come as no surprise: “Tourism in Thailand, which in 2007 had 14.8 million visitors, naturally is getting seriously impacted by political unrest that for the past week severed Bangkok’s busy air links with the world. While the city’s two airports are now expected to be functioning normally by Friday, the way hundreds of thousands of people have been stranded or inconvenienced by the shutdowns will have a lingering impact on tourist numbers. Dozens of countries have issued warnings to avoid traveling to Thailand.” []
  3. One of my favorite Capote passages, from The Grass Harp: “Below the hill grows a field of high Indian grass that changes color with the season: go see it in the fall, late September, when it has gone red as sunset, when scarlet shadows like firelight breeze over it and the autumn winds strum on its dry leaves sighing human music, a harp of voices.” []
  4. A thought: does the barrier to entry presented by the fact that large motorcycles require their operators to understand how to use a clutch and shift gears keep unqualified/unsafe drivers off the road? []