Weekend Reading XCII

by uber

The (perpetually, it seems) Lost Art of Letter-Writing

I suppose effective guide books are best when they are memorable. Often they are not really for instruction, I suppose, but a form of light entertainment. You can see this with cook-books, many of which have little practical value, but which are full of sumptuous recipes and photos. Perhaps letter-writing has a similar vicarious appeal? The practice of returning correspondence is an intriguing one


Living with Schizophrenia, Coffee and Friends

I depend, probably too much, on my friends. You know who you are, and all I can say is thank you. I hope I can be a support sometimes as well, and if anyone ever feels I’m the person to talk to, just pick up the phone/chat window/mail client. Mental equilibrium is far more than diagnoses or syndromes: everyone needs someone, and everyone needs to be someone, sometimes.


The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation

Jules Verne proposed using a cannon. Goddard was pooh-pooh’d by no less a group than the New York Times.


The Museum of Obsolete Media

I remember how incredibly futuristic my minidisc player felt when I got it. They even use them in the Matrix. I lived my undergraduate years out of ZIP disks, because College gave us such a small file store. Recently, I realised that no one in the room I was lecturing to had a USB stick: everyone just uses dropbox and email. It’s getting to the point where the whole notion of removable media is becoming obsolete. My preferred laptop in work is essentially just a really fancy cache for my dropbox: I have no data stored on it that’s not in the cloud.


Pope Francis’s Views on Evolution Have not Really Evolved

I have to control my frustration when I see the reports about Pope Francis. He’s not a liberal, in my view he is a radical conservative: he has made no substantive changes to Church policy, he might even be less open to change than Benedict. On the other hand, he does not respect tradition, and he’s infinitely better at PR, and more personally charismatic. It’s very frustrating because it shows how superficial people’s engagement with the world is.


The (American) Red Cross’s Secret Disaster

Charitable action is full of unintended consequences, and it’s distinctly unfair to apply perfect hindsight to emergencies. On the other hand, I have an innate scepticism about most, if not all, charitable organisations, both in terms of their competence and the authenticity of their actions. Conquest’s laws apply.