Espionage, Venezuela, Octopuses, Segway, Parker

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

How To Read The Trump Dossier

Arthur Snell | London Review Of Books | 17th January 2017

British ex-diplomat explains how an intelligence officer would parse the Steele dossier alleging a Russian plot to compromise Donald Trump. “The format of the reports in the Trump dossier is the same as that used by most Western intelligence agencies. Surnames are fully capitalised, as they are in MI6 house style”. Some of the details appear to rely on “well-sourced, triangulated intelligence”, which does not make them true, but “the reader may usefully assume their likelihood” (1,833 words)

Crude Nation

Paul Musgrave | 17th January 2017

Intelligent and probing review of Crude Nation, by Raul Gallegos, about the collapse of Venezuela, which Gallego blames mainly on the “resource curse”; easy riches from oil deformed the economy and corrupted the political system. But how then to account for the fact that Venezuela was relatively prosperous and well-run until Chavez took power in 1999? “Venezuela’s collapse looks not like any of the standard oil-bred malaises, but rather the typical end-stage of a failed Communist state” (1,221 words)

The Mind Of An Octopus

Peter Godfrey-Smith | Scientific American | 1st January 2017

Octopuses think. They can choose, steal, escape, navigate, remember, play. They constitute “an island of mental complexity in the sea of invertebrate animals”. The most recent ancestor common to octopuses and humans is “so distant — more than twice as ancient as the first dinosaurs — that they represent an entirely independent experiment in the evolution of large brains and complex behavior”. To encounter an octopus is “probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien” (3,371 words)

Steve Jobs And Jeff Bezos Meet “Ginger”

Steve Kemper | Working Knowledge | 16th June 2003

Great moments in venture capital. Dean Kamen presents a prototype of his Segway motorised scooter to Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos. Jobs is scathing about the design — and, as events will prove, prescient: “It sucks! It’s not elegant, it doesn’t feel anthropomorphic. You have this incredibly innovative machine but it looks very traditional. Screw the lead times. You don’t have a great product yet! I know burn rates are important, but you’ll only get one shot at this, and if you blow it, it’s over” (2,400 words)

The Many Lives Of Donald Westlake

Michael Weinreb | Grantland | 24th January 2013

“When I first came across the fictional antihero known as Parker, he was in a hotel room, torturing a man who had tried to murder him in his sleep. I had picked up a skinny little volume called The Outfit, which doesn’t so much begin as get straight to the goddamned point. It is no secret that the man who wrote the Parker novels deliberately started many of them with the word ‘when’, thereby ensuring the rising action would not be muddied up with dull things like exposition” (4,700 words)

Video of the day: Memories Of South Asia

What to expect:

Travelogue. Glimpses of life in Nepal, India & Sri Lanka (2’39”)

Thought for the day

Defenders think in lists. Attackers think in graphs
John Lambert

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