Browser Daily Newsletter 1206

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

The White Ghetto

Kevin Williamson | National Review | 9th January 2014

Vivid reporting from Owsley County, Kentucky, the poorest place in America. "Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings on the hill, piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, and death"

Messi, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic: Football’s Superheroes

Simon Kuper | FT Magazine | 10th January 2014

Today's football stars are fitter, more durable, more disciplined than their predecessors. But less interesting. "Maradona offered the spectacle of the footballer’s struggle with the inner man. Messi offers only a perfectly professional genius, as if Claude Monet had signed a contract to produce masterpieces twice a week and then actually did. Messi is a genius like Monet, but Messi’s genius is easier for most people to appreciate"

The Bitcoin-Mining Arms Race Heats Up

Ashlee Vance & Brad Stone | Business Week | 9th January 2014

Big, accessible explainer on how Bitcoin mining works. It used to be a hacker's hobby. Now big investors are moving in, raising the price of entry and perhaps bringing closer the day when the Bitcoin system as a whole can be broken or gamed. "The fear is that an organization with piles of capital and not much idealism can buy enough computational might to corner the market and box out the individual miner"

How Credit Card Numbers Work

Nick Berry | Gizmodo | 8th January 2014

The first fifteen digits of the card number are determined by the issuing bank. The last digit is mathematically determined by the preceding digits, using a public-domain algorithm. When you enter a credit card number online, this last "check digit" will return an error message 90% of the time if you have transposed or mistyped any of the preceding digits; it will also detect 90% of randomly-generated fake credit card numbers

Crowd-Testing Fiction

Laura Miller | Salon | 9th January 2014

The more that we read on electronic devices, the more data we provide to publishers about our reading habits and tastes, and the more tempting it becomes for publishers to favour new novels that mimic past successes, taking no risks with unconventional authors. "The truth is that tailoring books to reader preferences has been going on for decades, and the Internet is only making this process more efficient"

Video of the day:  Neil Young At Carnegie Hall

Thought for the day:

"It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to read them" — Arthur Schopenhauer

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