weekend reading LII

by uber

A year of weekend reading links. I think it’s a pretty successful format, I hope you are enjoying them. If there is a way I could improve the posts, I’d love to hear it.

Something’s Blocking Bertha beneath Seattle

It’s so tempting to imagine something really exotic being the source of the blockage. Some great Cthonian enigma whose rest no man should disturb.


The object’s composition and provenance remain unknown almost two weeks after first contact because in a state-of-the-art tunneling machine, as it turns out, you can’t exactly poke your head out the window and look.

The Long Haul Flight

My longest flight in one go was from Paris to Sao Paolo, and that got really uncomfortable by the end. Even with getting up and walking around, it was just too long on a plane not to feel cabin fever. I can’t imagine 12+ hours being bearable.


Today’s in-flight entertainment is an infographic of the longest commercial flights—“ultra long-haul” routes that last more than 12 hours. We regret to announce that the lengthiest—Singapore Airlines’ flight from the city-state to Newark Airport near New York, at 15,263km—was discontinued last month. That now makes Qantas’ Sydney to Dallas flight the longest, at 13,790km. For those travelling during the holidays, spare a thought for passengers strapped into their seats for around 16 hours, the journey time for these flights. That’s double the duration it took Concorde to complete a similar distance (going round trip between London and Barbados).

Having a Servant is not a Right

The disparity of income in India was extremely jarring for me. It really manifested in the countless layers that were below the cost-of-living-level that ‘we’ were at. What slowly became apparent is just how deep the strata of middle class living go in the country.


I grew up in a middle-class household in India in the ’80s; my parents were schoolteachers, and our lifestyle was not lavish by any means. I received new clothes once a year; I don’t recall ever going to a restaurant; our family couldn’t afford a car, so we used a scooter. But we always had a live-in housekeeper who cooked and washed our clothes, while a man came by every other day to sweep and mop the floors.

Using Bittorrent to decide where to have concerts

Edit: Turns out this is not true. Apologies.

I totally would download a car.


In the case of Iron Maiden, still a top-drawing band in the U.S. and Europe after thirty years, it noted a surge in traffic in South America. Also, it saw that Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Columbia, and Chile were among the top 10 countries with the most Iron Maiden Twitter followers. There was also a huge amount of BitTorrent traffic in South America, particularly in Brazil.

Rather than send in the lawyers, Maiden sent itself in. The band has focused extensively on South American tours in recent years, one of which was filmed for the documentary “Flight 666.” After all, fans can’t download a concert or t-shirts. The result was massive sellouts. The São Paolo show alone grossed £1.58 million (US$2.58 million) alone.

Being Right vs. Being Happy

Standard, substantial caveats apply here: pilot study, no control, unbalanced, pilot study, etc. On the other hand, the graph produced is highly amusing to me. He spent a third of his quality of life to raise hers by one sixteenth.


The intervention was for the male to agree with his wife’s every opinion and request without complaint. Even if he believed the female participant was wrong, the male was to bow and scrape.

Essays from the funniest man in Microsoft Research

The world of IT and computing can be hilarious. These are even better given their source and context.


in the “so funny because it’s true that it wraps around and isn’t funny any more, but then wraps around a second time and is funny again, but with a tinge of sadness” category:


Flying a Light Aircraft across the Atlantic

Much like what I have seen of long cruises in boats, it’s really important not to be afraid of a bit of jury rigging and bodging of pipes and engines. This is quite an epic journey, no doubt.


The rest of the flight was completed without incident, arriving in Gaborone on Saturday 27th August after covering 9,700 nautical miles of which 7,000 had been over the ocean. The time taken had been 107 hours and Leon had spent almost as much on bribes in Africa as the entire cost of fuel for the trip. On approaching Gaborone, five friends from the Kalahari Flying Club had taken to the air shortly before his arrival to escort the brave, but tired pilot home over the last 30 miles of this journey.