Newsletter 1014

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

Best of the Moment

The Bomb That Almost Killed Hitler

Anonymous | National Archives | 23rd May 2013

From newly-released British Government WW2 papers (PDF). Transcript of conversation between two Nazi officers, one of whom interrogated Georg Elser, author of a 1939 Munich bombing meant to kill Hitler. "For six months the man spent every night in the beer cellar. I've never seen such an ingeniously constructed infernal machine. The man was a genius. That the Fuehrer got away with his life is nothing short of a miracle"

Gut-Wrenching Science

Mary Roach | Smithsonian | 22nd May 2013

Report from pepper-eating contest in Nagaland, India, home of world's hottest chillies. Here's what happens to a man who eats five: "Zozam rolls onto his back, arms splayed and palms up. He’s making sounds that are hard to transcribe. Mostly vowels. After a minute he rolls back onto his side and raises his head to retch. A doctor prepares a hypodermic of dicyclomine". The winner eats 14, and doesn't feel too well either

I Saw The Best Taxes Of My Generation

Gary Silverman | Financial Times | 22nd May 2013

An inspired howl against the complexity of the American tax system. Millions of words. A labyrinth. "It is just not healthy for so many Americans to spend so much of their lives being so furtive". Compare the Hong Kong system: "The authorities would mail you a letter telling you to pay 15 per cent of your salary and you would send them a cheque for the money. The taxman got his money and you had the rest of your day" (Metered paywall)

Jerry Brown’s Political Reboot

James Fallows | The Atlantic | 22nd May 2013

Big profile of Jerry Brown, and of the state of California. He comes out of it well — modest, inquiring, a fixer. The state is, as it were, another story. "What is weakest about America — the squabbling paralysis of the governing structures, the relentless pressure on the middle class, the steady decline of public schools, roads, parks and the simultaneous rise of the public-security state — is weaker and worse in California"

The Curse Of Reading

Ian Crouch | New Yorker | 22nd May 2013

You too, eh? You read a book, and, a couple of years later, you've not only forgotten the substance of the story, but even the act of having read it. It's not that I thought I was the only one; but I thought I was especially unretentive. Now I have my benchmark. "The spines look familiar. But for the most part, the assembled books, and the hundreds of others that I’ve read and discarded represent a vast catalog of forgetting"

New Autistic Way Of Thinking Powers Silicon Valley

Temple Grandin | Wired | 23rd May 2013

Book extract. Argues that we have three modes of thinking — in pictures, in words, in patterns. In tech, you need all three, and you need a balance between them, but above all you need the pattern thinking. That's what chess players have. What Steve Jobs had. What the best coders have. And also what people with autism often have. Seeing patterns helps you to grasp structures and spot mistakes quickly

Video of the day: Volkswagen: Tall Girl

Thought for the day:

"Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything"— J.K. Galbraith

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