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The Capybaras are Coming. Be Very Afraid

2016 08 25capybara

ScienceNews:

Capybaras, giant rodents native to South America, could become Florida’s next big invasive species, a biologist warned August 3 in Columbia, Mo., at the 53rd Annual Conference of the Animal Behavior Society.

“Capybaras have been introduced to northern Florida,” said Elizabeth Congdon of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. And there are enough similarities to nutria — large invasive rodents that have caused havoc in many states — to warrant a closer look at the South American newcomers.

Scary stuff indeed. Capybaras: cute and cuddly pets? Or the next nutria? Maybe both? We shall see.

Previously in Newley.com capybara references: I mentioned in a Newley’s Note edition back in May that I’d been looking into the creatures.

I was researching capybaras – yes, you read that right; they’ve been in the news – and came across this amazing video of two people who have made pets of the huge rodents. Here’s a video of the pair, Romeo and Tuff’n, going shopping.

And of course there’s one of the best videos ever, which I think I mentioned in my very first NN: capybaras taking a dip in an onsen.

How to Achieve Musical Success, According to a Map from 1913

2016 08 23map

Atlas Obscura:

When it comes to finding success, practice does really make perfect.

That’s the message behind this 1913 allegorical map entitled “The Road to Success,” a drawing that turns the figurative journey towards artistic triumph into a cartographic depiction of an actual climb towards victory.

The map appeared first in an October 1913 edition of The Etude, a magazine covering musical topics that was also known as Presser’s Musical Magazine, named for its editor Theodore Presser.

I love it. Applicable to much in life, not just music. Click through for a bigger version. And beware bohemiansim!

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: India’s Hike; Alibaba’s Expansion; Ugly McMansions, Gorgeous Goats

The latest edition of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Wednesday. It’s pasted in below.

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Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

Anasuya and I are continuing to settle in nicely here in New Delhi. Between new jobs and seeing friends and family and getting the house set up, it’s been a whirlwind.

Not lost amid all of that, though, is this milestone: Seven years ago this week we adopted Ashley, our beloved Bangkok street dog.

(Ashley, by the way, is also loving India, especially our small yard, where she enjoys sunning herself and watching the birds and squirrels in the trees above.)

Here’s a blog post I wrote on the fifth anniversary of our adopting her.

What I wrote in The WSJ

India’s WhatsApp Rival Hike Valued at $1.4 Billion

The story begins:

Indian messaging app Hike Ltd. has raised $175 million in a fundraising round led by Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Taiwanese electronics assembler Foxconn Technology Group.

The new investment values the homegrown app, a rival to Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp, at about $1.4 billion, Kavin Bharti Mittal, Hike’s founder and chief executive, said on Tuesday.

Alibaba Thinks Outside the China Box

Click through for a video. You may recognize the narrator’s voice.

The story begins:

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., its business maturing at home in China, is seeking out growth in India and Southeast Asia.

In India, the internet company in recent months has snapped up executives with experience in the country’s fast-growing, highly competitive e-commerce sector, a sign it could be planning an online-shopping push there. In Southeast Asia, Alibaba paid $1 billion in April for a controlling stake in Singapore-based e-commerce startup Lazada Group, its biggest overseas acquisition to date.

Apple Is Still Mulling Over Its Plans for India Stores, Government Says

The story begins:

India may have paved the way for Apple Inc. to open stores in the country, but a senior government official says the company hasn’t submitted any detailed plans yet — likely because of local-sourcing rules.

India’s government in June loosened foreign-direct investment restrictions in several sectors.

The government said foreign-owned single-brand retailers like Apple, which is keen to tap potential growth in the huge market, would have a three-year grace period from local-sourcing requirements. Such rules require firms buy at least 30% of their manufacturing materials from Indian vendors.

But since June, “we haven’t heard” anything about Apple’s plans, said a senior government official, declining to be identified.

Facebook Makes New Wi-Fi Push into India After Free Basics

The story begins:

Facebook Inc.’s controversial plan to get Indians online may have failed earlier this year, but the company says it is making a new push to expand internet access in the country, a key market for future user growth.

In the new effort, which Facebook is calling Express Wifi, the Menlo Park, Calif. company is working with internet service providers, or ISPs, and carriers to provide wireless hot spots in rural parts of the country, such as mom-and-pop shops, where users can get cheap access to the internet.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) “Superblocks: how Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars”

Interesting story in Vox, with images, illustrating how planners have used “superblocks” (or superilles) to make the city more pedestrian friendly.

2) “This Basically Anonymous Fund Manager Oversees $800 Billion”

Bloomberg profiles Gerry O’Reilly, who’s in charge of the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund.

“Index funds are often called ‘passive investments,’” Ben Steverman writes, “yet there’s nothing particularly passive about what O’Reilly and his Vanguard colleagues do all day.”

3) “McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad Architecture?”

An explanation, in architectural terms, of why McMansions are ugly.

4) “Baton Rouge 2016 Flood: Man saves woman and dog from sinking car.”

Remarkable video. But pretty heavy. Do you need a chaser? Here you go…

5) “These may be the most magnificent portraits of goats and sheep you’ll ever see”

Lovely.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

P.S. Know someone who’d like this newsletter? Please forward it along.

P.P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

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Some news: WE MOVED TO INDIA!

2016 08 08 indiatweet

More on this in future posts, but…A and I moved to India! I’m penning this post from New Delhi, our new home after two and a half years in Singapore.

Above is a Tweet I posted sharing the news. Below is the Newley Notes missive in which I explain a bit more.

I’m very excited about this new adventure. Expect more posts on India, tech, and life in the world’s second-most-populous nation.


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly (most of the time) newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

This is a special edition: it’s the first one I’m penning from New Delhi, our new home!

Anasuya and I moved here from Singapore about a week and a half ago — hence the weeks-long Newley’s Notes absence — and are settling in well so far.

I’ll be working out of the WSJ bureau here in the capital of the world’s second-most-populous country. I’m so, so excited to be in this vibrant, dynamic nation, and to be able to focus more on tech developments here. And having family and friends nearby is a huge bonus.

It’s an exciting time for India, a country of 1.3 billion where people are increasingly coming online for the first time, many on low-cost smartphones.

How is technology changing their lives? Is it improving them? What are some of the world’s biggest tech firms — Facebook, Google, Amazon, Uber — doing to win here? How are local startups innovating? These are questions I hope to answer in my stories.

On to this week’s edition.

What I wrote in The WSJ

Grab, an Uber Rival in Southeast Asia, Is Set to Raise $1 Billion

The story, which I wrote with two exceptional colleagues in Hong Kong, begins:

As Uber Technologies Inc. turns away from China, a competitor is raising funds to cement its dominance in Southeast Asia and fend off the tech titan based in San Francisco.

Uber’s decision to sell its China business to Didi Chuxing Technology Co. is giving Singapore-based Grab renewed confidence it can take on Uber and win on its home turf. Grab says it has captured much of Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing market with more than half of private-car rides in the region.

Valued at $1.6 billion in its previous funding round, Grab is planning to raise about $1 billion in fresh capital from investors including Didi and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.,a person familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The first chunk of that fundraising, a $600 million dose, is expected to be completed this week, the person said.

How Uber Plans to Avoid Getting Didi-ed in India

The story begins:

Uber is upping its game in India following its retreat from China.

The San Francisco ride-hailing company earlier this week gave up its costly battle for users in China, selling its business there to homegrown rival Didi Chuxing Technology Co…

What I wrote at Newley.com

Three additions to my “book notes” series of posts, in which I share notes from my readings.

Book Notes — ‘Never Eat Alone,’ by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Brief recap: A popular book about the power of networking. I didn’t find it revelatory, but appreciate the central theme, which is common sense: that you should help friends just to help them, not because you expect something in return. In other words, as the author writes, networking can be a huge advantage – but don’t keep score.

Book Notes — ‘Deep Work,’ by Cal Newport

Brief recap: Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, argues that knowledge workers must devote themselves entirely to the most sophisticated and valuable contributions they can make – they must concentrate on what he calls “deep work.” Common sense, yes, but the book provides some compelling insights and plenty of practical tips. Highly recommended.

Book Notes — ‘Den of Thieves,’ by James B. Stewart

Brief recap: An absolute classic. Pulitzer-prize winning Jim Stewart tells, though in-depth reporting and riveting storytelling, the story of the insider trading scandals that rocked Wall Street in the 1980s.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Nice Cargo Shorts! You’re Sleeping on the Sofa

A lighthearted WSJ story out of New York that blew up online — we’re talking 83,000 Facebook shares and 600 comments. The nut graf:

Relationships around the country are being tested by cargo shorts, loosely cut shorts with large pockets sewn onto the sides. Men who love them say they’re comfortable and practical for summer. Detractors​ say they’ve been out of style for years, deriding them as bulky, uncool and just flat-out ugly.

2) After you’ve read that, check out this hilarious Vice piece, in which the author unpacks the WSJ story.

3) When LBJ Ordered Pants From the White House

Speaking of clothing, this is not new, but new to me. Visit the link and scroll down to the hear the remarkble audio of a phone call Lyndon Johnson made to the Haggar clothing company in Dallas in 1964. Audio is possibly NSFW, given graphic anatomical descriptions — not to mention audible burping.

4) America Seen From Abroad: Arrogant, Nice, Tech-Savvy, Free

I love this. The AP asked people all over the world for their impressions of Americans.

One of my favorites:

— “America? Uhh, that’s a huge country. Burgers, the American dream, choppers, … Elvis, cowboys. We dream of America and they dream about Europe. But one thing for sure, they cannot make beer.” — Knut Braaten, 43, handyman, Oslo, Norway.

5) App of the week: Prisma, which turns “every photo into art.” It’s like Instagram, but it makes your pics way cooler.

Have a great week, and let me know what’s new in your world.

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

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Book Notes — ‘Never Eat Alone,’ by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Note: For some time I have kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I’ve read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. For now I’m assigning them all to my Book Notes category. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

Never eat alone

Never Eat Alone…and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
By Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz
Published: 2005
ISBN: 0385346654
Amazon link
Rating: 6/10

Brief recap: A popular book about the power of networking. I didn’t find it revelatory, but appreciate the central theme, which is common sense: that you should help friends just to help them, not because you expect something in return. In other words, as the author writes, networking can be a huge advantage – but don’t keep score.

My notes:

  • Ferrazzi relates his story of growing up in the U.S. in a lower-middle class family, outside of elite circles. One he became friends with influential people, however, he discovered that they helped him in school and work, and that – of course – it’s much better to be on the inside than on the outside looking in.
  • Anyone who’s read books about the power of networking is probably familiar with most of the notions mentioned here. These include: the importance of building relationships with business contacts over the long term; the importance of being kind to assistants and other gatekeepers; why it’s key to follow up after you meet new contacts in order to stay in touch; how to make the most of meeting people at conferences; how to make small talk; etc.

  • My main takeaway from the book, though, was that it reinforced the the importance of trust in building career capital via the relationships you make, over time. As Ferrazzi writes:

My point is this: Relationships are solidified by trust. Institutions are built on it. You gain trust not by asking what people can do for you, to paraphrase an earlier Kennedy, but what you can do for others. In other words, the currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.

Business cycles ebb and flow; your friends and trusted associates remain.

Book Notes — ‘Deep Work,’ by Cal Newport

Note: For some time I have kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I’ve read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. For now I’m assigning them all to my Book Notes category. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

Deep work

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
By Cal Newport
Published: 2016
ISBN: 1455586692
Amazon link
Rating: 9/10

Brief recap: Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, argues that knowledge workers must devote themselves entirely to the most sophisticated and valuable contributions they can make – they must concentrate on what he calls “deep work.” Common sense, yes, but the book provides some compelling insights and plenty of practical tips. Highly recommended.

My notes:

  • What is deep work? It’s the core stuff we are trained to do, for which we’ve developed deep expertise – the crux of what makes us experts in our field.

    Or, as Newport writes:

    Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

    What isn’t deep work – or, as he calls it, “shallow work”? Newport says it’s activities that a recent college graduate could learn how to do relatively quickly.

    So, if you’re a consultant, let’s say, you must devote yourself entirely to your most important work, like producing deliverables for clients or bosses. Eschew all but the most critical email, needless meetings, social media and other distractions – even though it may seem like this stuff is important to your job.

  • Social media is largely a waste of time, and should avoided, Newport says. But our culture is so techno-centric – we are living in Neil Postman’s “technolopy”, he writes – that this is difficult:

Deep work is at a severe disadvantage in a technopoly because it builds on values like quality, craftsmanship, and mastery that are decidedly old-fashioned and nontechnological. Even worse, to support deep work often requires the rejection of much of what is new and high-tech. Deep work is exiled in favor of more distracting high-tech behaviors, like the professional use of social media, not because the former is empirically inferior to the latter. Indeed, if we had hard metrics relating the impact of these behaviors on the bottom line, our current technopoly would likely crumble…

  • After laying out, in the first half of the book, why deep work is important, Newport goes out to provide some tips for building more deep work into one’s life. A few that I liked, and have since implemented:
    • Keep a scorecard: log not only how many hours per day you’re able to spend on deep work, but track with a paper and pen, and post in a conspicuous place, details on when you’ve reached important milestones, such as completing important projects.
    • Train yourself to embrace boredom in order to build focus: Newport notes that a key requirement of deep work is the ability to concentrate deeply for long stretches of time, and that means resisting the temptation to surf the web or check in on social media when boredom strikes.

    • Ponder your work when walking. In a notable passage, Newport says he often takes long walks to and from his office, devoting the time to thinking about problems that are vexing him at work, searching for solutions.

    • That said, guard your downtime: Though Newport is a successful academic, publishing regularly, he argues that because he consistently focuses on deep work, he doesn’t have to work marathon hours. This is crucial because focusing is more mentally demanding than shallow work, and the brain needs time to relax. Newport even describes how he mentally prepares to leave his office every day, saying out loud to himself that he is finishing his work and shutting off his computer, serving as a reminder that it’s time to tune out a bit.

  • Newport earlier authored another interesting book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.”

    The premise of that work: Follow your passion is terrible advice. True work satisfaction often comes only after a good deal of time, once we’ve developed expertise. So pick something you’re good at, that you like, and that society values. Then develop a craftsman’s mindset, honing your skills over time. Also worth checking out.

Book Notes — ‘Den of Thieves,’ by James B. Stewart

Note: For some time I have kept, on index cards, written notes about the books I’ve read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. For now I’m assigning them all to my Book Notes category. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

Den of thieves

Den of Thieves
By James B. Stewart
Published: 1991
ISBN: 067179227X
Amazon link
Rating: 10/10

Brief recap: An absolute classic. Pulitzer-prize winning Jim Stewart tells, though in-depth reporting and riveting storytelling, the story of the insider trading scandals that rocked Wall Street in the 1980s.

My notes:

  • Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Dennis Levine, Martin Seigel – you’ve heard their names in connection with insider trading, and may remember some specifics of their deeds.

    In this book, Stewart – with whom I was lucky enough to study at journalism school – lays out in incredible detail what motivated them to break the law, precisely how they did it, and how they were caught.

    The book clearly communicates what a powerful factor greed can be, and how the characters in the story acted with brazen disregard for the law. Also, even people who are familiar with Wall Street excess might be surprised with just how much money the industry’s titans made (and make) – yachts, helicopters, lavish estates, it’s all here.

  • The book remains relevant even today. As Stewart writes in a new introduction in 2010, after the global financial crisis:

When I finished writing Den of Thieves, in 1991, I ended with a question: Can it happen again?

Nearly twenty years later, we know the answer: it did happen again. Which begs the same question: are we destined to repeat history yet again?

I believe the answer lies in these pages, since this is ultimately a story not about insider trading or hostile takeovers but about human nature. In the most recent financial crisis, the setting has changed to subprime mortgages, asset-back securities, and exotic derivatives. Yet again, the power of vast sums of money to overpower everything in their path – laws, regulations, ethics, even common sense – has been on ample display. And once again, in the face of public outrage, there have been calls for reform.

  • Although “Den of Thieves” contains descriptions of complex matters like financial instruments and elaborate financing arrangements (not to mention a huge cast of characters), it is still a page turner – even at over 500 pages long.
  • Stewart reconstructs, in vivid scenes, how everything unfolded, putting the reader in the middle of the action. (For more on how Stewart tells stories, see his excellent 1998 book “Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction.”)

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Cameron Caught Humming; NYC Library Superintendents; Singaporean Banana Commerce; Epic Hockey Hair

The latest edition of my email newsletter went out to subscribers on Wednesday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe!


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

What I wrote at Newley.com

Single, Individually Wrapped Bananas for Sale in Singapore

I shared this on Twitter and Facebook, as well, but wanted to preserve it for posterity on my blog. As I wrote:

Spotted recently at a 7-Eleven here in the city-state: bananas, in individual plastic bags, bearing the words “single and available.”

The sunglasses.

The plastic bag, despite — as a colleague pointed out on Twitter — the fact that bananas are naturally individually wrapped.

The “tip” at the bottom about when best to consume bananas according to ripeness.

It’s all too much.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) “David Cameron is caught humming a jaunty little tune after announcing his resignation as UK prime minister.”

Must-see video. Remarkable. The phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” comes to mind.

2) New York libraries once hosted live-in superintendents – meaning they and their families grew up in the facilities:

In the early to mid twentieth century, the majority of the city’s libraries had live-in superintendents. Like the superintendents who still live in many of the city’s residential buildings, these caretakers both worked and lived in the buildings for which they were responsible. This meant that for decades, behind the stacks, meals were cooked, baths and showers were taken, and bedtime stories were read. And yes, families living in the city’s libraries typically did have access to the stacks at night—an added bonus if they happened to need a new bedtime book after hours.

The post contains some interesting images.

3) “20 of the Best iPhone Photos of 2016.”

There are some gorgeous photos here. My favorite is the fourth from the top. You’ll know it when you see their faces. (Via Patrick N.)

4) Chinese Lottery Winners Collect Prizes Dressed as Cartoon Characters to Protect Their Identity

Simply amazing. And practical! Who wants all those friends and family members hassling your for dough after you’ve struck it rich?

5) “2016 Minnesota State High School All Hockey Hair Team.”

Incredible video. I cannot believe teenagers wear their hair in such styles in modern America. (Thanks, Miles!)

Have a great week!

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

Short Film: Guy Who Built Enormous Model Train Set

Some Kind Of Quest from Andrew Wilcox on Vimeo.

Embedded above is “Some Kind of Quest,” a short documentary about Bruce Zaccagnino and Northlandz, a 52,000-square-foot model train setup he created in New Jersey over a period of four years.

Dedication, pure and simple.

Related video: the Belgian gentleman who is really into marbles.

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