Weekly newsletter 95

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

How to Start A Battalion (In Five Easy Lessons)

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad | London Review Of Books | 14 February 2013

Report from Syria. Grassroots warfare. "Why would I succumb to your authority as a commander when I can be my own commander and fight my own insurgency?" What you need: $3,000 for weaponry, and a few friends, one of who can work a laptop and upload your videos to YouTube, where they can be seen by potential financiers. A bit of ideology helps

Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Mediocre People

James Altucher | Rumpus | 13 February 2013

"I’ve started a bunch of companies. Sold some. Failed at most. Invested in a bunch of startups. Sold some. Failed at some. Written some books, most of which I no longer like. Everything has been distinguished by its mediocrity. Any success I’ve had can be put just as much in the luck basket as the effort basket. All people should be so lucky"

Inside The Battle of Hoth

Spencer Ackerman | Wired | 12 February 2013

Reconstructing the decisive battle at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. It should have been a total debacle for the Rebel Alliance. But Vader and the Empire forgot two rules: "Don’t place unaccountable religious fanatics in wartime command, and never underestimate a hegemonic power’s ability to miscalculate against an insurgency"

Obituary: Jungleyes Love

Anonymous | Telegraph | 12 February 2013

Old Harrovian hippy. Born Charles Gibaut Bissell-Thomas. Changed his name several times: Charlight Utang, Soma Love, Jungleyes Cism Love. Asked to worship the devil when at primary school. Neurobiology graduate. Apprenticed to a witch-doctor in Indonesia. Sold runic jewellery in Kew. Built pendulum that picked winning horses. Fruitarian

The Importance Of Excel

James Kwak | Baseline Scenario | 9 February 2013

Excel is a powerful tool, but a dangerous one. "While all software breaks occasionally, Excel spreadsheets break all the time. But they don’t tell you when they break: they just give you the wrong number." J.P. Morgan used Excel spreadsheets to monitor risk on the London Whale trading account. They were wrong. Nobody noticed. Cost: $6bn

I’ve Fallen Out Of Love With Football

Simon Kuper | Financial Times | 8 February 2013

It's not that the game has got worse. But when you can watch six live matches on television every weekend, you start to realise: most football is boring. Even for the players, it's just a well-paid job. Most of the supposed excitement is manufactured by media coverage. "I’ve got too close to the adored object and seen what it's really like"

Seven Days On The Queen Mary 2

Dwight Garner | New York Times | 8 February 2013

"I read, wrote a book review, and spent a fair amount of time in the late afternoons in an outdoor hot tub on Deck 8 with a commanding view over the aft. The first evening I soaked there, watching the sky darken and the ship’s wake spread out, I was keenly aware that this was perhaps among the top 200 moments of my life"

In Defense Of Soviet Waiters

Peter Frase | Jacobin | 6 February 2013

Soviet waiters were famously rude because the system allowed to express their feelings towards the customers. By and large, the customers didn't like it. Now, fast-food chains such as Pret a Manger are criticised for demanding that their workers behave cheerfully. Which would you prefer: Authentic rudeness, or feigned cheerfulness?

Video of the week: Die Hard: Claymation Edition

Thought for the week:

"Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats" — Howard Aitken

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