NN328: Herding Hilarity

Sent as a newsletter on March 5, 2024. Not on my list? Sign up here.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above:

🇨🇳 I was delighted to participate in a Schwarzman Scholars alumni seminar panel here in Hong Kong on Friday.

📚 The program sponsors recent college graduates from around the world to get a master’s in global affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Alumni met here in HK over a few days.

📱On the panel, Jen Zhu Scott, Angela Huyue Zhang and I discussed AI and venture capital in China, tech regulations, and more. Lujain Ibrahim moderated.

I talked about some of our recent WSJ stories on the challenges U.S. companies are facing in the country. And we answered some interesting questions from the audience.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 🍔 What the rising cost of cheeseburgers says about economic pressures on U.S. restaurants. 🎁 <– WSJ gift link

2) 🫀 Why low-intensity Zone 2 cardio is suddenly all the rage. 🎁 <– WSJ gift link

3) 🤑 How a financial advice columnist fell for a complex scam that cost her $50,000 in cash.

4) 🧠 A first-hand account of living life as a sociopath.

5) 💾 Even cooler than music on vinyl: music on floppy disk.

6) 📺 A guide to choosing video streaming services.

7) 🤳 Selfies are bad for museums.

8) 🧐 “Things Unexpectedly Named After People.”

9) 🌌 For those keen to get their celestial bearings, Galactic Compass is a new app that points to the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

10) 📕 BookPecker: “14509 books summarized in 5 bullet points.”


📖 What I’ve Been Reading

I’m late in mentioning that earlier this year I read, and absolutely loved, the novel “Bangkok Wakes to Rain,” by Pitchaya Sudbanthad.

It takes place over hundreds of years, spanning multiple generations of Bangkok inhabitants, and touches on themes of love, loss, permanence and meaning.

I wrote a bit more about the book on LinkedIn here.

📖 What I’ve Been Watching

🇸🇪 If you’re understandably caught up in the “Love is Blind” series on Netflix, don’t miss “Love is Blind: Sweden“! Still plenty of interesting twists and turns, but the drama is handled more…maturely?

🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

Herding the statues (_Thanks, Dad!__)


💡 Quote of the week:

“Patience is not passive, on the contrary, it is concentrated strength.” — Bruce Lee


👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,



India Keeps Pulling the Plug on Its Digital Economy

That’s the headline on my newest story, out Wednesday. It begins:

When Indian authorities shut down the internet across a remote northeast state in May, Amy Aribam said it wiped out the more than $9,000 in monthly revenue for her home business selling saris online.

Four months later, Aribam is back online but the internet remains down for many, and the women who weave her silk and cotton saris by hand are suffering. “We couldn’t communicate with our customers,” Aribam said. “Our business is completely online.”

Indian authorities said they pulled the plug to stop the spread of rumors as social unrest erupted in Manipur, a state governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. India’s government has increasingly shut down the internet to respond to a range of problems, including political upheaval, fugitives on the loose and even cheating on exams.

Nine years after Modi was elected, the world’s most populous democracy leads the world in internet shutdowns, according to tallies by digital-rights groups. Last year’s 84 cutoffs in various parts of the country exceeded the combined total for all other nations, including Iran, Libya and Sudan, New York-based digital rights group Access Now says. Since 2016, when the group began collecting data, India has accounted for more than half of all internet shutdowns globally.

The outages have disrupted the lives of tens of millions of people in a country where inexpensive mobile data and government efforts to facilitate mobile payments have catapulted vast numbers of consumers into the digital age in recent years. About half of India’s 1.4 billion people are now online, increasingly dependent on connectivity to communicate with friends and family, shop online, pay utility bills and more.

Digital-rights advocates say the shutdowns disproportionately affect the poor, often making it harder for them to collect food subsidies and wages through rural employment programs. They also lead to job losses, hamper online transactions and discourage foreign investment. That damps economic growth and disrupts startups and U.S. e-commerce companies, researchers say.

The prime minister’s office and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Click through to read the rest.


Winter Weather Arrives in Hong Kong. Finally

It felt like it would never come, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s just a few days ago.

But now it’s here. As if on cue, now that it’s December.

Actual winter weather!

The mercury has dipped to the low 60s and even high 50s. Skies are clear. The sun is out.

I love this time of year in Hong Kong. 🤗


NN279: Don’t Mess with Luna’s Dog Bed

Sent as an email newsletter Sunday, October 17, 2021. Want in? Join my email list.

👋 Hi friends,

Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

Image of the week, above: Hong Kong’s skyline, seen from a recent outing on Victoria Harbour.

Here are 10 items worth your time this week:

1) 👉 Last Saturday my colleague Jeff Horwitz and I had a new story out as part of The WSJ’s Facebook Files series.

The headline: Facebook Services Are Used to Spread Religious Hatred in India, Internal Documents Show

It begins:

Mark Zuckerberg praised India in December as a special and important country for Facebook Inc., saying that millions of people there use its platforms every day to stay in touch with family and friends. Internally, researchers were painting a different picture: Facebook’s products in India were awash with inflammatory content that one report linked to deadly religious riots.

Click through to read the rest (no WSJ subscription required for the link above)…

2) 🗞 …Then on Friday, a follow-up, with my colleague Rajesh Roy, after our story ran: Facebook Faces Official Questions in India Over Policing of Hate Speech.

3) 💻 Meanwhile, Facebook has rebranded as Meta, a decision that in part “reflects the company’s perceived growth opportunities beyond its namesake social-media platform,” my colleague Steven Russolillo writes.

4) 📹 On license plate scanners and American neighborhoods.

5) ✒️ New Yorkers are embracing ephemeral tattoos that last about a year and cost a few hundred dollars.

6) 🎨 Lee Me Kyeoung creates beautiful paintings of Korean corner stores.

7) 📖 Amazon lets authors go directly to readers via its Kindle Direct Publishing wing. Is that changing how novels are written?

8) 📺 Interesting data visualization: Ratings for the longest-running TV shows over time.

9) 🧘‍♂️ Here is eight hours of deep space video footage set to ambient music.

10) 🐕 When dogs tilt their heads, they’re not just being cute. They might also be thinking hard.


🦴 Dog-related video of the week:

🐶 “This is Luna. In her defense, that is her bed. 14/10 she did nothing wrong.”


💡 Quote of the week:

“Hate is a lack of imagination." — Graham Greene

👊 Fist bump from Hong Kong,



NN204: Why Ebooks Disappoint — DNA Kits and Privacy — Fake Paparazzi Pics — Puppy in Tennis Ball Heaven

Real books: you just can’t beat ’em.

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash.

Sent as an email newsletter December 29, 2019.

👋 Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

📬 Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

💲 1) Tech story of the week: State Support Helped Fuel Huawei’s Global Rise [WSJ]

“A Wall Street Journal review of Huawei’s grants, credit facilities, tax breaks and other forms of financial assistance details for the first time how Huawei had access to as much as $75 billion in state support as it grew from a little-known vendor of phone switches to the world’s largest telecom-equipment company – helping Huawei offer generous financing terms and undercut rivals’ prices by some 30%, analysts and customers say.”

📚 2) The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came. [Vox]

“Ebooks aren’t only selling less than everyone predicted they would at the beginning of the decade. They also cost more than everyone predicted they would – and consistently, they cost more than their print equivalents.”

🧬 3) Pentagon warns military members DNA kits pose ‘personal and operational risks’ [Yahoo News]

“The Pentagon is advising members of the military not to use consumer DNA kits, saying the information collected by private companies could pose a security risk, according to a memo co-signed by the Defense Department’s top intelligence official.”

🐖 4) Chinese criminal gangs spreading African swine fever to force farmers to sell pigs cheaply so they can profit [SCMP]

“Sometimes the gangs spread rumours about the virus, which is fatal to pigs, but in more extreme cases they are using drones to drop infected items into farms.”

🕵️ 5) Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands [Washington Post]

“Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. ”

🔥 6) The Couple That Fakes Their Own Paparazzi Photos [The Cut]

“The account was only three months old and had a one-word bio, ‘Samsara,’ spelled out in a cool Gothic script. It featured candid-style photos of an attractive couple wearing impeccably coordinated outfits and eating fast food that matched their clothing.

🗣️ 7) The Fight Over the 1619 Project Is Not About the Facts [The Atlantic]

“A dispute between a small group of scholars and the authors of The New York Times Magazine’s issue on slavery represents a fundamental disagreement over the trajectory of American society.”

👨‍🎓 8) My Semester With the Snowflakes [Medium/Gen]

At 52, I was accepted to Yale as a freshman. The students I met there surprised me.”

👏 9) Non-dog-related video of the week: 6 year old Irish girl hilariously insists on going to the pub [YouTube]

“My 6 year old daughter insisting that she should get to go to the pub. She is hilarious, watch until the end 😂😂”

🎾 10) Dog-related video of the week: Tennis balls overdose [Reddit/r/aww]

💡 Quote of the week:

“Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” – Simone Weil

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,


Thanks for reading. If you like Newley’s Notes, please forward it to a friend or share it on Twitter or Facebook using the links below.


NN203: India Protests — Mobile Phone Data Dump — ‘Far Side’ Returns — Welcoming Wolves

India flag

Photo by Naveed Ahmed on Unsplash

Sent as an email newsletter December 22.

👋 Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter containing my recent Wall Street Journal stories, must-read links on tech and life, and funny dog videos.

📬 Not a subscriber yet? Get it here.

🇮🇳 There’s one story dominating headlines here in India this week: ongoing protests against the Modi government’s Citizenship Amendment Act. Our most recent story, out Friday, begins:

Indian Muslims are stepping off the sidelines to join the political fray, driven by fears their status as citizens has never been more threatened and encouraged by the numbers of non-Muslims joining them in opposing a new citizenship law.

Earlier in the week, my colleague Krishna Pokharel and I wrote about how the government has been cutting off mobile phone and internet links to try to thwart the protests.

That story, by the way, contained these tidbits many people are unaware of regarding internet blackouts in the world’s biggest democracy:

So far this year India has cut access to the internet 94 times, according to India’s, a group that advocates for digital freedom. That accounts for 67% of the world’s documented shutdowns, the organization says.

Thursday’s shutdown marks the first time the capital has been targeted, said an spokesman. “It’s a first for Delhi,” he said.

Last year India saw 134 internet shutdowns – more than any other country, according to Access Now, another advocacy group. That was more than 10 times its neighbor Pakistan, which came in second with 12 shutdowns, and more than Yemen and Iraq, with seven each.

⚠️ As I mentioned last week, watch this space. The situation is fluid. For more frequent updates, you can follow me on Twitter.

On to this week’s NN.

Here are ten items worth your time this week:

🇺🇸 📱 1) One nation, tracked [New York Times]

“Every minute of every day, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies – largely unregulated, little scrutinized – are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. The Times Privacy Project obtained one such file, by far the largest and most sensitive ever to be reviewed by journalists.”

Bonus link: Freaked Out? 3 Steps to Protect Your Phone

💬 2) Facebook, Twitter Remove AI-Powered Fake Accounts With Pro-Trump Messages [WSJ]

“Facebook linked the company to the Epoch Media Group, which has had ties to the Falun Gong movement, a spiritual movement based in China which has clashed with the Chinese government and supported President Trump’s reelection.”

🙏 3) Losing Faith in the Humanities [The Chronicle Review]

“The decline of religion and the decline of the study of culture are part of the same big story.”

🧪 4) ‘Miss America can be a scientist’: Camille Schrier of Virginia wins after onstage chemistry experiment [Washington Post]

“She certainly stole the show during the talent portion – as the other four finalists performed jazz dances, twirled batons and sang songs, Schrier put on a chemistry demonstration.”

✏️ 5) ‘The Far Side’ Is Back. Sort Of. Gary Larson Will Explain [New York Times]

"A website will feature some of the beloved comic strip’s classics and, Larson says, ’I’m looking forward to slipping in some new things every so often.’”

🔮 6) Song of the week: “Mister Rogers Remixed: Garden of Your Mind.” [YouTube]

⛷️ 7) Trailer of the week: “Downhill,” featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell [YouTube]

💯 8) More best-of–2019 lists! Following up on last week’s roundup: Best news bloopers of 2019 [YouTube]; best longform articles of 2019 [Longreads]; The 14 charts that explain tech in 2019 [Vox/Recode]; The 30 best Southern albums of the year [Bitter Southerner] (Thanks, Miles!).

🔍 9) Busted pooch of the week: Ruh-Roh! Franklin police dog caught stealing from toy donation bin [Boston 25 News]

“When a couple of toys went missing, they quickly identified a suspect, and even caught him on camera in the act.”

🐺 10) Dog (relative) video of the week: A lady reuniting with a wolf pack she helped raise [Reddit/aww]

💡 Quote of the week:

“In your life, you will be evaluated on your output. Your boss will evaluate you on your output. If you’re a writer like me, the audience will evaluate you on your output. But your input is just as important. If you don’t have good input, you cannot maintain good output. The problem is no one manages your input…” – Ted Gioia, via Austin Kleon. (P.S. listen to the whole interview; it’s an excellent episode of Conversations with Tyler, one of my favorite podcasts.)

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,



Tsunamo, Modi 2.0 — Some Newspaper Front Pages here in India

Here’s how a few newspapers this morning reacted to exit polls indicating PM Narendra Modi (NaMo) is set to stay in power.


Link: Michael Cohen Deals a Blow to His Former Boss

The WSJ‘s Gerald Seib, who knows a thing or two about DC, on yesterday’s stunning events (snips from the piece, with my emphasis):

Yet the contours of the story Mr. Cohen obliquely referred to—payoffs to two young women who alleged extramarital affairs with Mr. Trump—aren’t hard to understand. Some in Mr. Trump’s orbit had long worried that his exposure on that front, legally and politically, could well turn out to be higher than his exposure to the Russian collusion charge. On Tuesday, at least, that appeared to be true.

Politically, the results now will be twofold. Republicans in Congress will have to decide whether the Manafort and Cohen court proceedings affect their willingness to protect the president. Odds are they won’t, at least for now.

Yet the Cohen charge now figures to be wrapped into whatever report Mr. Mueller prepares at the end of his investigation, at which point the question will become whether prosecutors have uncovered any actions that could result in impeachment.

And at that point, Democrats hope they will have taken control of Congress and will be in position to make the decision. Ironically, Mr. Trump was in West Virginia trying to ensure that Democratic takeover doesn’t happen.


Weekend Watercolors: Bangkok Temples

The latest in my ongoing weekend attempts to master* the watercolor medium.

Here we see temples in Bangkok, with skyscrapers in the background, done from a reference photo.

I like that I was able to keep everything in proportion in the line drawing. I’d hoped for bolder, more saturated colors, but couldn’t seem to produce them without adding gobs of paint and muddying things up. Perhaps higher quality pigments will help.

Watercolor painting is deeply humbling. The colors seem to have a mind of their own, and how they end up appearing once laid done seems highly unpredictable. But that’s also what creates the unexpected effects, which is cool.

Onward and upward!

*Ha. I’d settle for “become proficient in”! 🙂


Gone Fishin’

As I mentioned in my previous edition of Newley’s Notes, I’ll be on summer holiday for the next couple of weeks.

Back at you later this month!