Rooms, Towns, Jails, Learning, Music

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Quarantined To Room 903

Grace Segran | The Smart Set | 12th July 2021

Writer's account of the 14-day quarantine she spent in a Singapore hotel. Gentle and touching. Despite restrictions on close contact, she forged relationships with the staff who dropped off her food and walked 117 miles around her small space. Rather than feeling shut in, she found the experience liberating. "I felt my burdens dissipate. Like I’d left them outside when I entered the room" (3,347 words)

How To Build A Small Town

Kris de Decker | Wrath Of Gnon | 6th July 2021

The optimal size for a new small town is 80 acres, preferably bounded by a wall or moat, and surrounded by productive agricultural land to a radius of one mile. Such a town can be traversed on foot within 15 minutes and can easily sustain 3,000 residents. A slightly irregular oval shape is to be preferred, "for the simple reason that the best towns and cities seems to be oval to some degree" (4,100 words)

Keeping People Out of Jail

David Byrne | Reasons To Be Cheerful | 12th July 2021

Interview with the authors of a study which suggests that if the state stops automatically prosecuting people for small, non-violent crimes like shoplifting or minor drug possession, the serious crime rate falls too. Cities that tried this during Covid are now adopting it for the long term. Not only does it reduce incarceration, it also frees up police and court time for the remaining cases (2,252 words)

Audio of the Week: Machine Learning

A History of Teaching Machines | EdSurge | 15th June 2021

Technology critic Audrey Watters traces the history of "teaching machines" in early-to-mid 20th century classrooms, before the age of personal computers. The champions of mechanisation included the behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner, who, when not teaching ping-pong to pigeons, designed a desktop box for generating questions and collecting answers on strips of paper (35m 50s)

Book of the Week: Music Comes Out Of Silence

by Andras Schiff | Courtesy of Tyler Cowen

"A well-written and in fact gripping treatment of what makes classical music so wonderful, life as a touring concert pianist, and defecting from Hungary and later being disillusioned by a resurgent European populism. Zoltan Kocsis was at first the more brilliant pianist, but Andras Schiff was more persistent and ended up with a more successful career" (352 pages)

"A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it"
Oscar Wilde

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