Categories
Misc.

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,

Newley

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Misc.

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 SFLC.in, 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 SFLC.in 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,

Newley

Categories
Misc.

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.

Categories
Misc.

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.

Categories
Misc.

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”! 🙂

Categories
Misc.

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!

Categories
Misc.

5 Most Popular Newley.com Posts from 2017

2017 in review

Here are the five most popular Newley.com posts from last year, measured by number of visits.

What proved to be most-clicked were largely my personal dispatches about matters like the late, great Ashely, and our various travels:

  1. Ashley, 2008–2017 – A tribute to our beloved Bangkok street dog, who died on March 7.
  2. My Top 10 Southeast Asia Travel Tips – Advice for journeys in this culturally rich and diverse region.
  3. Trip Report: Varanasi, India’s Holiest City – notes from our February sojourn.

  4. Trip Report: Three-Day Getaway to Neemrana Fort Palace – a post about a memorable trip we took to a very cool fort that’s been converted into a hotel

  5. Google CEO’s Advice to Ambitious Students: Loosen Up – a lighthearted story about Sundar Pichai’s tips.

Previously: My Top 10 Posts from 2016

Onward, my friends, to 2018!

Categories
India Misc.

New Delhi Smog Update: At Least the Temps are Dropping

So, what’s up with the air pollution here in New Delhi?

Here’s an update:

It’s still bad.

The PM2.5 reading yesterday morning was in the 300s. Which is not good.

But it’s not all terrible news.

Winter temps are here, which I love. Lows are dropping down to the 50s Fahrenheit, which is about 10 Celsius.

Sweater weather…just about! After nearly a decade in tropical Bangkok and Singapore, I am still giddy at the prospect of winter.

You take the good with the bad.

Categories
Humor Misc.

Story of the Day, Arkansas Pug Tuxedo Edition

The AP reports:

A former administrative assistant to an Arkansas county official has pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a credit card after prosecutors accused her of using public money to buy personal items, including a tuxedo for her pet pug.

Lest you think all the purchases were frivolous, among them were not just diamond jewelry and “sequined throw pillows” but also pet insurance, the AP says.

So there’s that.

Categories
Misc.

Weekend Sketching: Pen and Ink is Therapeutic 

After sketching in pencil the other weekend — and toiling forever to get the angles right — I decided to ditch the graphite this time and go straight to pen and ink. 




It felt liberating. 

With ink, provided you don’t put down any pencil lines first, you have to just commit and draw. There’s much less belaboring of every little detail. 

There’s probably a metaphor for life in there somewhere. Stop tweaking and trying to be perfect and just get it done already.