Spies, Russia, Uncle, Supper, Chess

John Brennan On Life In The CIA

Tyler Cowen | Conversations | 16th December 2020

Former CIA director interviewed. Interesting throughout. Topics include Catholicism, clandestine operations, UFOs, lie-detectors, punctuality, forecasting, counter-terrorism, family life, forgery, torture, Arabic, Palestine, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Le Carré, James Bond. John Brennan on UFOs: "I’ve seen some of those videos from Navy pilots, and they are quite eyebrow-raising" (10,170 words)

The Big Thaw

Abrahm Lustgarten | Pro Publica | 16th December 2020

Where many countries see climate change as an existential threat, Russia sees it as mostly good news. Rising average temperatures and longer growing seasons are awakening Siberia from centuries of barrenness. Forests, swamps and grasslands are being transformed into soybean, corn and wheat fields. Food production could supplant oil and gas as a warming Russia's primary export industry (7,400 words)

How should you respond to the new AI wave? The Business of Big Data, by Browser Publisher Uri Bram and Oxford Said Business School Professor Martin Schmalz, shows you how to think strategically about the economic impacts of AI, and to complement the latest technologies instead of competing against them.

The Grace Of This World

Brad Rassler | Outside | 10th December 2020

Retracing the last days of a beloved uncle who abandoned his Michigan law office , made a new life as a ski bum and bartender in Colorado in his mid-fifties, then returned unannounced to Michigan, filled himself with drugs, walked into a river, and drowned. A mystery story in which the mystery is that of the human condition: Why would a man so full of life want to bring that life to an end? (10,500 words)

The Lost Last Supper

Cees Noteboom | Yale University Press | 16th December 2020

A Venetian tale that is all the better in this retelling. In 1573 the Holy Inquisition demanded that Paolo Veronese correct his Last Supper; he had enlivened the biblical scene with dozens of comic interlopers and a dog; the inquisitors wanted these painted over. Veronese had a better idea: He renamed the work Feast In The House Of Levi, instantly placing it outside the inquisitors' purview (1,200 words)

A Life-Lesson In Concentration

Jonathan Rowson | Aeon | 6th January 2020

Chess grandmaster explains how a top chess-player thinks. "I don’t see one square or piece at a time. Instead, I see the whole position as a situation featuring relationships between pieces in familiar strategic contexts; a castled king, a misplaced knight, an isolated pawn. It’s a kind of conceptual grammar. My search to do the right thing feels fundamentally aesthetic in nature" (3,000 words)

Video: Tony The Tiny Pony | Oneedo. The ballad of a tiny horse, sung by a tiny man, the moral of which is that even tiny horses can do great things (3m 50s)

Audio: Stalin's Wine Cellar | Outlook. A wine merchant hears that Stalin's wine collection, including bottles looted from the Tsars, is quietly up for sale, after being hidden for decades in Georgia. He decides to investigate (35m 01s)

"I basically only read books that are over 2,000 years old"
Hans-Georg Gadamer

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