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Newley’s Notes 137: Tommy Talks Royals; China’s Tech Titans; Singing Bulldogs

Edition 137 of my email newsletter went out on Sunday.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox before it’s posted here, simply enter your email address at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🇬🇧 1) Must-read of the week, despite having nothing to do with tech: British Expert on the Royal Family Is Actually Tommy From Upstate New York [Wall Street Journal] — In this masterful A-hed, my colleague Bradley Hope reveals that purported royal commentator Thomas J. Mace-Archer-Mills, Esq. — who has appeared on the BBC and in the Economist, speaking in a posh British accent — is Thomas “Tommy” Muscatello.

He grew up in upstate New York, went to college at Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach, S.C., then apparently moved to the U.K. — and reinvented himself. So fascinating.

📹 2) Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018 [PewInternet.org] — When it comes to internet platforms, forget Facebook. Teens today are into YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey.

🇨🇳 3) Mary Meeker’s 2018 internet trends report: All the slides, plus analysis [Recode] — Famed Silicon Valley VC Meeker released this week her annual report on big picture tech topics. Of particular interest, writes Rani Molla:

China is catching up as a hub to the world’s biggest internet companies. Currently, China is home to nine of the world’s 20 biggest internet companies by market cap while the U.S. has 11. Five years ago, China had two and the U.S. had nine.

🏻 4) 82-Year-Old Proves You’re Never Too Old to Code [AARP] — Japan’s Masako Wakamiya, a retired bank clerk, learned Apple’s Swift programming language and created a free iOS game. You can find it here.

🕵️ 5) The Curious Case of Bryan Colangelo and the Secret Twitter Account [The Ringer] — Does the president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers take to the platform anonymously?

🥂 6) Long-read of the week: Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It [NY Mag/The Cut] — The story of how Anna Delvey, a young and seemingly moneyed German socialite, played a long con on a handful of rich folks in New York.

🦈 7) Great White Sharks Have A Secret ‘Cafe,’ And They Led Scientists Right To It [NPR] — Why do these creatures head to a remote part of the ocean one thousand miles off the Baja Coast? Turns out they’re after a “a complete food chain” built on plant life that exits deep underwater.

🕉️ 8) The one “fascinating” mind-training exercise Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella practices every day [Quartz] — TLDR: Before you get out of bed, take a deep breath, identify something for which you’re grateful, set your intention for the day, then feel your feet.

🎧 9) Hurry, Boy, It’s Waiting There for You: Weezer Covers “Africa” [NewYorker.com] — It came, Amanda Petrusich writes, after “nearly six months of devoted needling from a Twitter account dedicated expressly to the cause.” You can listen here.

🐾 10) Silly dog of the week: The Singing Bulldog [Neatorama/YouTube] — Walter the French bulldog doesn’t bark. He sings.

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Newley

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Newley’s Notes 136: Go-Jek Expands; Theranos Exposed; Gareth Bale = Genius

Edition 136 of my email newsletter went out a couple weeks back.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox before it’s posted here, simply enter your email address at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🛵 1) By me, with a colleague, in The WSJ: Hot on the Wheels of Grab, Go-Jek Rides Further Into Southeast Asia. The story begins:

Motorcycle-taxi service PT Go-Jek Indonesia will invest $500 million to expand its operations in Southeast Asia, revving up competition in a fast-growing consumer market just two months after Uber Technologies Inc. reached a landmark deal to exit from the region.

The Indonesian company said in a statement Thursday it plans to enter Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines in the next few months and is currently working with regulators and stakeholders across the region.

Go-Jek will initially offer motorcycle-hailing services in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, and provide traditional taxi services in Singapore, where motorcycle taxis aren’t permitted, a company spokesman said. The move, in effect, puts Go-Jek in direct competition with regional market leader Grab Inc.

🚫 2) Cautionary tale of the week: Amazon Alexa-Powered Device Recorded and Shared User’s Conversation Without Permission [WSJ] — /Begin rant/ Not to beat a dead horse, but Newley’s Notes readers have been warned about these devices on several occasions. Think long and hard about installing one in your house, if you’re privacy-conscious. Consider Amazon’s business model — selling you stuff — and how that might inform their product strategy. Same with Google Home. The Big G is an advertising company fueled by personal data. And it should come as no surprise that Facebook is also said to be considering getting into the connected speaker business. /End rant/

🤑 3) Tech longread of the week: How the Math Men Overthrew the Mad Men [The New Yorker] — “Once, Mad Men ruled advertising,” Ken Auletta writes. “They’ve now been eclipsed by Math Men — the engineers and data scientists whose province is machines, algorithms, pureed data, and artificial intelligence.”

💉 4) Tech video of the week: The Theranos deception — “60 Minutes” sums up the Theranos scandal — uncovered by The WSJ‘s John Carreyrou — in this 14-minute piece. Carreyrou’s new book, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” is just out.

🃏 5) How Trump changed everything for The Onion — [Politico] — How do you make jokes about a president who “often defies satire“? Politico’s Andrew Restuccia interviews The Onion‘s editor in chief, Chad Nackers.

🎹 6) The Songs of the Years, 1925-2018 [Kottke.org] — A simple, cool idea: a playlist featuring one song from each year, running through the decades. On Spotify here; on Apple Music here; on Google Play Music here.

⚽ 7) Soccer trend piece of the week: A New Atlanta, United by Soccer [New York Times] — “For 10 years, I didn’t look at Atlanta as my home,” one fan of the new MLS side Atlanta United says in this story about how team has built its fan base. “Now, Atlanta United is the glue to the community for me.”

💯 8) Soccer goal of the week/year/decade/in Champion’s League history? A must-see from Gareth Bale in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Liverpool yesterday. On YouTube (for now at least) here. And here’s a fan’s view on Twitter.

😂 9) One silly thing: Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas “Outtakes.” [YouTube] — Fantastic.

📚10) A quote I’ve been pondering:

If you want to think long-term, you can’t spend all day reading things that train your brain to twitch.

That’s from Wall Street Journal investing columnist Jason Zweig — one of the sharpest minds out there on behavior and money — describing what he reads and why.

If you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend. If you received this from a pal, you can sign up here.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

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Newley’s Notes 135: India’s WhatsApp-ocalypse; the Ascent of Fortnite; Year’s Best Fail

Edition 135 of my email newsletter went out a few weeks back.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox before it’s posted here, simply enter your email address at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💬 1) By me in The WSJ: Think American Elections Are Bad? Indian Voters Get 1,000 Texts a Day [WSJ] — A story with my colleagues about how political parties in India are turning WhatsApp into a potent communications weapon. The opening few grafs:

For Gurupad Kolli, a 40-year-old lawyer who lives in a remote Indian village, the torrent of WhatsApp messages surging to his phone a few weeks ago meant one thing: election day was near.

They’re at turns strident, angry, buoyant, informative, misleading, gripping and confusing, he says. Some days he received as many as 1,000 of them through the popular messaging service. Pleased to no longer “depend on the mass media like newspapers,” the resident of Ramapur village in the southern state of Karnataka nonetheless also conceded “there’s so much false and fake news going around.”

He isn’t alone in his bewilderment. The rapidly falling cost of smartphones and mobile data in the world’s second-most-populous nation has turbocharged the spread of WhatsApp, where it is growing far faster than other social media and messaging platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

🥚 2) By me on my blog: Delhi Snapshot: Transporting Eggs [Newley.com] — Delhi traffic is no joke. I snapped a pic of perhaps the coolest customer in all of this teeming metropolis.

✏️ 3) You Can Draw, and Probably Better Than I Can [RogerEbert.com] — Not new, but new to me: an inspiring 2011 post from the late film critic Roger Ebert on the pleasures of drawing and the risks of perfectionism. Just doing the sketching, and not worrying about getting every little detail right, is crucial — and something I always struggle with as I continue by own drawing and watercolor painting, since accuracy is so central to my day job. (Via Austin Kleon.)

🎮 4) Tech longread of the week: How Fortnite Captured Teens’ Hearts and Minds [New Yorker] — Nick Paumgarten has the crazy stats:

Released last September, it is right now by many measures the most popular video game in the world. At times, there have been more than three million people playing it at once. It has been downloaded an estimated sixty million times.

And the wider significance:

Game fads come and go: Rubik’s Cube, Dungeons & Dragons, Angry Birds, Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Pokémon Go. What people seem to agree on, whether they’re seasoned gamers or dorky dads, is that there’s something new emerging around Fortnite, a kind of mass social gathering, open to a much wider array of people than the games that came before.

👂 5) We Made a Tool So You Can Hear Both Yanny and Laurel [NY Times] — Obligatory entry about this week’s internet “controversy.” TLDR: Your interpretation depends on the frequencies you hear.

💊 6) My Adventures with the Trip Doctors [NY Times Magazine] — Last week I pointed to Michael Pollan’s WSJ essay adapted from his new book about promising new research into psychedelics. He’s back with another piece, this one looking at the therapists working underground to treat patients.

🗣️ 7) What Google isn’t telling us about its AI demo [Axios] — Remember that bit I mentioned last week about Google showcasing new tech in which an artificial intelligence system carried on a real-life conversation with unwitting participants? Google won’t say if the audio was edited, Axios’s Dan Primack reports.

⛵ 8) This Armada of Saildrones Could Conquer the Ocean [Bloomberg Businessweek] — A fascinating profile (with cool visuals) by Ashlee Vance of Richard Jenkins, whose vision is to launch 1,000 seafaring robots for tasks like collecting scientific data and prospecting for oil and gas.

⚡ 9) Headline of the week: Motorised shed hits 100mph to break speed record at Pendine Sands [BBC News] — Hats off to 53-year-old Kevin Nicks, from England, for this spectacularly silly feat.

🤭 10) Fail of the week: Hilarious video as man tumbles down set of steps into Thames [YouTube] — I love a good fail video. And this one is excellent, from the narration to the blooper itself to the fact that they guy wasn’t hurt. I only hope it wasn’t staged. It’s an instant classic for me, right up there with 2012’s “Catch the Ice Dude.”

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👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

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Newley’s Notes 134: Indians in America; Scary AI; Feline Parkour

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Edition 134 of my email newsletter went out last weekend.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox before it’s posted here, simply enter your email address at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💰 1) By me in The WSJ: Walmart Picks a Freewheeling Partner for Its $15 Billion Passage to India [WSJ.com] — It’s official. Walmart on Wed. completed its blockbuster acquisition — the largest in the company’s history — of India’s biggest e-commerce startup, Flipkart. In this piece, my colleagues and I examined the potential corporate culture clash ahead. The lede:

The famously frugal and focused Walmart Inc. is betting $15 billion on a much different kind of company: a sprawling Indian e-commerce startup that has burned through mountains of cash to try to conquer the country’s online shopping market.

🇮🇳 2) By me on my blog: Book Notes: ‘The Other One Percent: Indians in America,’ by Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh [Newley.com] — My notes from an excellent work I recently read. My brief summary: “An illuminating look at how Indians in America – a tiny percentage of the overall population – have come to enjoy such outsized success.” Highly recommended.

🗣️ 3) Shot: Should our machines sound human? [Kottke.org] — Google just showcased new tech that allows an artificial intelligence system to carry on life-life conversations with people.

Click through to listen to the demos as people unwittingly, it seems, speak with this program. This raises real ethical concerns. Should the person on the other end of the call not be made aware somehow that they’re not speaking to a real human?

🔮 4) Chaser: How Frightened Should We Be of A.I.? [New Yorker] — “If the arc of the universe bends toward an intelligence sufficient to understand it, will an A.G.I. be the solution—or the end of the experiment?” Tad Friend writes in the New Yorker.

🕵️ 5) Related: Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. [NY Times] — From the top of Craig S. Smith’s story:

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.

And:

Mr. Carlini added that while there was no evidence that these techniques have left the lab, it may only be a matter of time before someone starts exploiting them. “My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,” he said.

📖 6) 50 Pulp Cover Treatments of Classic Works of Literature [Literary Hub] — Love it. And these are not spoofs! “Classic works of literary fiction have existed as pulps from the very beginning of pulp—the new paperback publishers of the 1940s and 50s printed them right along with classic crime and some genuinely lowbrow (and sometimes quite lurid) new novels, often commissioning the very same artists to design their covers,” Emily Temple writes.

🎮 7) How is this speedrun possible? Super Mario Bros. World Record Explained [YouTube] — One video game “speedrunner” explains how another, Kosmic, set the world record for completing the game in 27 minutes. Taking advantage of glitches, timing screen scrolling, and more — this is simply incredible.

💊 8) The New Science of Psychedelics [WSJ] — An essay adapted from Michael Pollan’s new book “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.” Related: Pollan, author of books like “Food Rules” and “In Defense of Food” was also recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast.

✈️ 9) Heartwarming story of the week: He searched for his Japanese birth mother. He found her — and the restaurant she had named after him [Washington Post] — Kathryn Tolbert tells Bruce Hollywood’s remarkable story.

🐈 10) Silly cat video of the week: Graceful Alley Run [Neatorama/YouTube] — Lest you think I am too dog-centric, here’s a video of a majestic feline parkour-ing through a sticky situation — all set to AWOLNATION’s song “Run.”

If you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend. If you received this from a pal, you can sign up here.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley

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Newley’s Notes 133: Facebook Dating; Angry Elon; Stoned Raccoons

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Edition 133 of my email newsletter went out last weekend.

If you’d like NN delivered to your inbox before it’s posted here, simply enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.

Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🛒 1) More on Walmart and Flipkart from my colleagues and me Friday: Walmart Takes on Amazon With $15 Billion Bid for Stake in India’s Flipkart [Wall Street Journal] — The story begins:

Walmart Inc.’s battle with Amazon.com Inc. is heading to India.

Walmart is leading a group that will invest about $15 billion for a roughly 75% stake in Flipkart Group, India’s largest e-commerce company, according to people familiar with the matter. Google parent Alphabet Inc. is planning to invest in Flipkart as part of the deal, other people familiar with the situation said.

It would be a big bet by Walmart that India will be a source of growth at a time when Amazon is gaining ground in the country. It is also an effort by Google to keep Amazon from potentially acquiring Flipkart itself.

Watch this space.

😠 2) Highlights From Elon Musk’s Combative Tesla Earnings Call [Wall Street Journal] — Worth a listen. “During the more than one hour call, Mr. Musk cut off two analysts asking about capital-expenditure plans and reservations for the Model 3 sedan, dismissing them as ‘boring, bonehead’ questions and ‘dry,'” my colleague Tim Higgins wrote in an accompanying story. Tesla’s stock fell nearly 6% after the call. I found listening to be interesting insight into Musk’s personality.

❤️ 3) The 5 biggest announcements from Facebook’s F8 developer conference keynote [The Verge] — Facebook: Tinder killer? Among the news from Facebook’s annual developer conference: The social media titan is getting into dating. A new feature “allows people to browse potential matches at inside groups or events you’re interested in attending,” Natt Garun reports.

🌈 4) Tourists flocking to Peru’s newfound ‘Rainbow Mountain.’ [AP] — The latest Andean backpacker must-see, near Pitumarca, Peru: “Stripes of turquoise, lavender and gold blanket what has become known as ‘Rainbow Mountain,” a ridge of multicolored sediments laid down millions of years ago and pushed up as tectonic plates clashed.”

🎵 5) Swan Songs: Music For Your Final Exit [NPR] — I challenge you to listen to this podcast without choking up. NPR’s “All Songs Considered” asked listeners what songs they’d want to have played at their funerals. Morbid? Maybe a little. But also highly moving and inspirational.

🚲 6) The Bike-Share Oversupply in China: Huge Piles of Abandoned and Broken Bicycles [The Atlantic] — Absolutely insane images.

📷 7) Scenes Unseen: The Summer of ’78 [NY Times] — And speaking of striking pics: Last year a New York City conservancy worker found nearly 3,000 unpublished color slides of life in the city’s parks during the summer of 1978. An intriguing photo essay from the NY Times. There’s beer drinking, swimming, double dutch, landscape paining — and so smartphones.

🎾 8) A Competitive Team Sport. For Your Dog. [NY Times] — My new favorite thing, probably ever: Flyball, aka relay races for dogs (and their owners). Sample videos here and — best of all — here.

😂 9) Quote of the week:

“I’m sitting at one of the firehouses. No pet raccoons are overdosing here.”

That’s from this story out of KSHB in Kansas City: “Pet raccoon, stoned off of too much weed, brought to Indianapolis firehouse. Confusion ensues.” And yes, there is audio.

🐶 10) Silly video of the week: Sound way up –> “Do you like your new toy?”. My favorite part is the owner’s resigned “alright” at the end. Oh, and it has spawned some memes, natch.

If you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend. If you received this from a pal, you can sign up here.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,

Newley