Start Ups, Wah-Wah Pedals, Water Politics, Dubai, Lord Byron

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

Startup Playbook

Sam Altman | Y Combinator | 5th November 2015

Y Combinator wrote a handbook for their startups — and then they thought, why not just give it to everybody? Which is very kind of them, since it's likely to be one of the best business books you'll ever see. Actionable information in every sentence. "Find ways to get 90% of the value with 10% of the effort. The market doesn’t care how hard you work — it only cares if you do the right things" (8,000 words)

The Invention Of The Wah-Wah Pedal

Zachary Crockett | Priceonomics | 5th November 2015

It was an accident, basically. The old Vox amps of the early Beatle days had a switch for "mid-range boost". An American engineer thought: What if you used a potentiometer instead? The answer was that you got a terrific "wah-wah" effect as you turned the knob. But a guitarist has his hands full, he can't be twisting a knob while he plays. So, a pedal. Frank Zappa bought one, and showed it to Jimi Hendrix (2,800 words)

My Name Makes Me Invisible To Computers

Christopher Null | Wired | 5th November 2015

Null means nothing to computers. So, bad luck if "Null" is your surname, and you are filling in an online form, and null is a reserved string. "In other words: if lastname = null then ... well, then try again with a lastname that isn’t null." But what if lastname isn’t null but “Null”? It depends. As a general rule, "the larger the company is behind the application or the website, the more trouble it will have with my name" (811 words)

It’s Still Chinatown, Jake

Richard Walker | Brooklyn Rail | 2nd November 2015

California has plenty of water, but it falls in the wrong places. The State's response to the current drought is to plan more dams and reservoirs, to supply more water to the farming industry, which uses lots of water and pays very little. A better plan would be for the State to buy up parched farmland and do nothing with it. This would cost less than the dams and reservoirs, and leave more water for higher-paying customers (3,500 words)

Dubai And New York

Ed Smith | New Statesman | 5th November 2015

What makes a city liveable? The capacity to surprise is part of the formula. City life needs hidden things, untidy things, intimate things, foot traffic. That's why New York fascinates, and Dubai does not. In Dubai chance encounters are designed out. "Cities are usually set up to supply the needs of crowds. Dubai is predicated on the absence of pedestrians. If you find other people irritating, Dubai is very attractive" (1,019 words)

Lord Byron: A Public Man

Andrew McConnell Stott | Lapham's Quarterly | 5th November 2015

London went “stark mad" in Lord Byron's presence. No writer had ever achieved such fame in his own lifetime. Men "practised Byronic scowls at their dressing tables". Women "bombarded him with letters filled with frank confessions". Fame and its opportunities consumed Byron himself. He turned his life into a caricature, acting out in public "the Byronism he had been elected to represent" (3,200 words)

Video of the day: This Machine Destroys Everything

What to expect: If you never thought you would identify with half a ton of metal, watch this car-crusher at work (3'14")

Thought for the day

A sense of duty is useful in work but offensive in personal relations
Bertrand Russell (

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