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The Oil Thieves Of Nigeria

James Barnett | New Lines | 26th January 2023

Steady oil production is vital to Nigeria's economic stability, but a decades-long conflict over who owns the oil in the Niger Delta has created a thriving black market. Between 200,000 and 700,000 barrels a day are lost to "oil bunkering", the practice of siphoning crude oil straight from the pipeline and processing it in unofficial but increasingly sophisticated refineries (10,231 words)

Battle Of The Botanic Garden

Mark O’Connell | Guardian | 26th January 2023

Seemingly simple story of a hyperlocal dispute (American buys English botanic garden; locals object) with hidden depths. The new owner initiates a kind of "rewilding" that his critics claim is just a failure to do any gardening. Then culture war battle lines are drawn as the newcomers reject the classic style of botanic garden horticulture as an "inheritance of colonialism" (6,207 words)

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Nell Stevens | London Magazine | 18th January 2023

Short story about learning the piano, starting a family, and travelling across Europe to see Chopin's heart. "To ensure he wouldn’t wake up underground, Chopin requested his heart be taken from his body before he was buried. And so when he died, his sister, Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, removed the heart and placed it in a jar of cognac. She smuggled it, under her cloak, back to Warsaw" (4,982 words)

Is There Hope For Marriage?

Mary Harrington | Hedgehog Review | 9th December 2022

Only if we let go of "Big Romance", which does not mean entering into passionless commitments, but rather "accepting that romance and affection are great but not the chief objective of a thriving marriage". Partnerships where couples consider that their purpose is to work together on the "common business of living" offer a more flexible and in many cases equitable vision of married life (2,102 words)

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The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok

Cory Doctorow | Wired | 23rd January 2023

Don't be put off by the strange headline; this is an astute analysis of the life cycle of internet platforms. At first, the aim is to provide value to users, probably while operating at a loss. Then the priority is business users, in the hope of breaking even. Finally, all users are betrayed by the platform as it attempts to make a profit. Nobody is served, the experience is ruined, and the platform dies (4,710 words)

Notes On Craft

Lee Lai | Granta | 5th January 2023

Cartoonist reflects on the geography of the page in a comic book. "A single frame could be a whole busy vignette, a single intake of breath, or more of a fluid roll into the following panel. This awareness of the rhythm between the panel gutters and the page-turning has built up over time. I have sometimes found myself writing my dialogue deliberately to fit into left pages or right pages" (680 words)

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English In The Real World

Dan Stahl | Millions | 3rd January 2023

Review of the new edition of Garner's Modern English Usage, which is less of a grammar reference work and more a way of keeping up to date with the way that language is being used in everyday life. "They" as a singular gender neutral pronoun is now commonly accepted, as is the deployment of a terminal preposition. "Like" now has five valid uses, including as a filler word (1,554 words)

Secretary Jobs In The Age Of AI

Hollis Robbins | Noahpinion | 17th January 2023

On the revival of the secretary. "I predict that ChatGPT is going to drive a comeback of the 'keeper of secrets' role, paid well to screens calls and emails... If you’re in a role of any importance, you’re going to be flooded with AI-written text, much of which will be incorrect. You’re going to need to hire someone with a head on their shoulders to sort through it. Why not a secretary?" (1,915 words)

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Ending World History In... 1763?

Rob Taber | Age Of Revolutions | 12th December 2022

History professor makes the case for splitting the classic undergraduate "World History" course at the year 1763, rather than 1500 or 1600 as is more common. The signature of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 was an early clue to the future expansion of the British Empire, and this focus allows budding young historians to break away from "Eurocentric notions of the Renaissance" (1,686 words)

The Sound Of The Dialup

Oona Räisänen | Absorptions | 17th November 2012

Explanation of what each phase of the classic internet dial-up tone signified. It was almost entirely the product of two different modems performing a "handshake" and making sure they were using compatible modes, before sending pulses of test data. A new fact to me in all of this: it was easy to silence this tone, if you wished, by sending a single command down the line before initiating the dial (636 words)

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