Desparation, Exhumation, Belarus, Wolfram, Plastic Fish

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Did Brian Easley Have To Die?

Aaron Gell | Longreads | 9th April 2018

Tragic story of a Marine Corps veteran driven to despair by the loss of a disability cheque. He walks into a bank, claims to have a bomb in his backpack, and asks for $892 — the amount of his monthly cheque. All agree that he is calm and polite throughout — and evidently not much of a negotiator. “Around noon, Easley agreed to a deal: A pack of Newports in exchange for one of the hostages”. A police marksman shoots him dead. His backpack, retrieved by robot, contains a bible and a machete (9,300 words)

Reading The Soil

Christopher Cox | Oxford American | 13th March 2018

How to relocate a cemetery. First remove the headstones. “The crew always tore up a plot the same way: Left to right, row by row. Steve maneuvered the backhoe into position and began stripping the soil off an infant’s grave a few inches at a time. At the first sign of the coffin halo, Robert hopped down into the pit with a shovel. He dug and sifted a quarter shovelful at time, depositing anything that belonged to the casket or the body in a milk-crate-sized pine box that sat beside the grave” (3,750 words)

Learning To Report: A Tractor In Every Pot

Ben Smith | Buzzfeed | 8th April 2018

Walking back the cat. Beautifully crafted tale of working as a young journalist covering Belarus almost 20 years ago, and getting the story wrong, sometimes missing it spectacularly, by relying on too many preconceptions and too few facts. (I sympathise, I was there, I did the same.) “You learn how to be a reporter in large part by making mistakes, and I made most of my worst ones in Belarus. When I returned to the subject recently I found I’d been wrong about more than I realized” (4,200 words)

The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete

James Somers | Atlantic | 5th April 2018

Excellent essay on Stephen Wolfram, who wants to make all knowledge computable on his proprietary platform, Wolfram Mathematica. Documents created in Mathematica can integrate computations and data, making them far more useful to other scientists, whereas the current digital format, the PDF, allows only words and pictures. Arguably, Mathematica should displace PDFs as the standard format for scientific papers. But is it prudent to give Wolfram such power? (5,100 words)

In Conversation: Cosima Von Bonin

Eleanor Heartney | Brooklyn Rail | 4th April 2018

Action-packed interview with an artist who claims to have no craft skills and to spend her days watching TV in bed while employees produce her works — mostly plastic fish. “The idea was to make robed mackerels. They are hard plastic. I didn’t want to make any more soft toys apart from the killer whales. And I have these decorator crabs. In the ocean, they decorate themselves in order to hide. If you give them pom poms or pearl necklaces or hair, they decorate themselves” (2,570 words)

Video of the day Hornborgasjön April 2018

What to expect:

Migrating Eurasian Cranes rest by a lake in south-west Sweden, mixing with resident wooper swans (2’00”)

Thought for the day

Night pleases us because it suppresses idle details
Jorge Luis Borges

Podcast of the day How I Built It | Nolan Bushnell

Nolan Bushnell tells Guy Raz how he founded two very different firms, Atari and Chuck E. Cheese
(50m 56s)

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