Calendars, Nice Putin, MH370, Laptop Computers, Dinner Parties, Portland Public Library

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

On 24th February, at 6pm, The Browser is hosting a free event in London about information overload. See details at the bottom of this email.

Tempo Shifts

Colin Dickey | Berfrois | 10th February 2015

Notes on the politics of time. No calendar arises spontaneously, none is wholly scientific. "While the Earth’s orbit is not a fiction, any attempt to organize that orbit’s movement into a rigid order is as arbitrary as any other". Every calendar is the product of a political or religious agenda — which is why revolutions often bring a new one. Includes an interesting digression on historians who claim the Middle Ages never happened (3,860 words)

What If Putin Were Nice?

Keith Gessen | Politico | 23rd February 2015

A useful way to think about Russia. Vladimir Putin is not nice. But what if he were? "What would a Nice Putin have done differently over the past decade and a half? Not very much at all, I think. And this should give pause to anyone who believes that Putin’s behavior is aberrant — the product of a uniquely evil or crazy mind — and that he’s leading Russians in a direction opposed to what they perceive to be their true interests" (3,600 words)

I Know Where That Malaysian Plane Is

Jeff Wise | New York | 23rd February 2015

Officially the case of Malaysian Airlines MH370 has been closed. The Boeing 777 crashed in the Indian Ocean without trace, killing everybody on board. But what if a hijacker tampered with the final satellite transmissions to show a false course? What if the MH370 flew north and landed safely on a Russian airstrip in Kazakhstan? Of course it's a wild theory. It's also a great yarn, with just enough data points to sound plausible (4,270 words)

The Executive Computer

Erik Sandberg-Diment | New York Times | 8th December 1985 | Metered paywall

How the future of portable computing looked 30 years ago. Not great. "As the technology of these machines improves, and as their price declines, a lot will probably be sold. And as the software becomes refined, they will probably even be used. But the real future of the laptop computer will remain in the specialized niche markets. I can't imagine the average user taking one along when going fishing" (1,020 words)

Group Dinners Are Terrible

Dave Bry | Guardian | 20th February 2015

Six is the optimal number for a dinner out. Eight at a pinch. Any more and the whole thing breaks down — you can’t talk to anyone, the ordering gets out of line, and no one can do the math. "So, a proposal: a limit on the size of tables that furniture companies are legally allowed to make. A maximum number of ten for restaurant reservations. Fines for any establishment caught pushing two tables together" (1,218 words)

Secret Life Of A Public Library Guard

Dana Bialek | Narratively | 23rd February 2015

Nice piece of slice-of-life reporting, on the workday of Marko Petrovich, a security guard at the Portland Public Library in Maine, where few come for the books but many come for the warmth and the bathrooms. "Indoor spaces that are open to the public are a rare find. The library becomes a living room of sorts. Keeping the building safe and comfortable while at the same time truly public can be a precarious balance" (2,290 words)

Video of the day: Greek Rap Battle

What to expect: Greek debt crisis retold in rap. Some swearing. Dutch w/English subtitles (2'07")

Thought for the day

The trouble with history is that there are too many people involved
Nick Hornby (

Information Overload

The Browser & Cronycle invite you to a discussion about information overload in London at 6.30pm on February 24th.

Discussants will include:
* Bill Emmott — editor and film-maker
* Anatole Kaletsky — columnist and economist
* Dayo Forster — international editor of The Browser

Moderated by Robert Cottrell, editor of The Browser.

Venue: Forge & Co, 154 Shoreditch HIgh Street, London E1 6HD.

Drinks from 6pm. Discussion starts at 6.30pm.

Admission free, but please reply to this email to register in advance.

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