4th April 2013 | Jon Wilkins | Lost In Transcription
On the informational advantages that large businesses have over small ones. For example: Starbucks knows from A/B testing that unlimited wifi is better for business than metered wifi. An independent coffee shop can only guess what kind of wifi to offer, if any, and will probably guess wrong, worrying that unlimited wifi will attract freeloaders. The puzzle is, why don't more small firms copy the practices of big ones, however counterintuitive these might seem, knowing that the big firms have already run the numbers?
5th April 2013 | Diane Johnson | New York Review Of Books
Book review, of Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright, and Beyond Belief, by Jenna Miscavige Hill. "Not to be read home alone on a stormy night: Lawrence Wright’s scary book about Scientology and its influence, with its accounts of vindictive lawyers and apostate captives, [is] a true horror story, the most comprehensive among a number of books published on the subject in the past few years, many of them personal accounts by people who have managed to escape or were evicted from the clutches of a group they came to feel was destroying them"
5th April 2013 | Clive James | Slate
One poet analyses another. "The Italian 11-syllable line feels a bit like our standard English iambic pentameter and therefore tends to mislead you into thinking that the terzina, the recurring unit of three lines, has a rocking regularity. But Dante isn’t thinking of regularity in the first instance any more than he is thinking of rhyme, which is too easy in Italian to be thought a technical challenge: In fact for an Italian poet it’s not rhyming that’s hard"
5th April 2013 | Sam Leith | Prospect
Affectionate profile of Horace Rumpole, the fictional lawyer created by John Mortimer. "Rumpole is a paladin disguised as a rogue: a trickster hero. He is part barrister, part stage actor; delighting in the courtroom coup de théâtre. His raffishness is a form of generosity, a marker of his wide and perpetually amused tolerance of human folly. Adulterers, pornographers and honest villains don’t disturb him half so much as do prigs, punishment junkies and whited sepulchres"
1st April 2013 | Banyan | The Economist
Notes on a visit to Bukit Brown in Singapore, the biggest Chinese graveyard outside China, at the Qingming festival, when families visit and sweep relatives' graves, and leave gifts. "One lucky grandmother this year got a new handbag, a pair of shoes and frock. A great-grandfather, dead these past 80 years, scored an iPhone5 (in replica but, one assumes, preloaded with all the apps a contemporary ghost might need)." A touching sight, all the more so since a sizeable chunk of this green space is about to disappear under an eight-lane highway
Thought for the day:
"At the heart of market thinking is the idea that if two consenting adults have a deal, there is no need for others to figure out whether they valued that exchange properly" — Michael Sandel